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Btvs Seasons Rewrite: Season 5

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Author's Note: Welcome to Season 5. Some dialogue has been borrowed from the original episode, of which this is a rewrite. And of course, there's no Dawn. That part of the cannon storyline will start being rewritten in the next episode. Enjoy.

Buffy Vs Dracula.

"You know, I think I'm starting to tan."

The slayer glanced at her soulmate's naked chest. "You know, you might be right." She met his gaze through her sunglasses and wordless communication passed between them, quieter than the gentle waves which were surfing on to the warm sand of Sunnydale's coastline.

"Nope," Buffy remarked aloud after a minute of thought. "To tired to move. Besides, we'd shock the gang."

"You two are insatiable," an English voice commented.

"Wes, you wanted to join the youthful generation of the group," it's blond leader replied, "deal with the lack of the censorship."

"That's because the only two alternatives were baby worship or Spike."

"Come on, Ellis is cute."

"And you're his godmother, you're biased."

"Guys," Angel uttered with authority. "Sunbathe."

A moment of silence passed over the group.

But only a moment.

"Why didn't we do this last summer?"

"'Cause we had the Initiative to prep for, 'delia," Doyle answered.

"You prepped for the Initiative?" Tara asked them.

"Had to," Buffy replied. "The guys lived on technology that was straight out of James Bond. We spent the entire vacation last year keeping them under surveillance and learning that mobiles and walkie-talkies were vital necessities to the Scooby team."

"As well as the patrols and choosing College courses," Oz added.

"And getting the Bronze through all the safety checks," it's owner added. "You know, I'm still surprised it passed them, what with its past history of being Defcon One for demon whipping territory."

"Well, me and Jenny did have to work the mojo on the officials," Willow revealed.

"Now you tell me."

"Relax. The spell will last." The wicca paused before adding in afterthought. "I think."

"Speaking of mojo," Doyle began, "how's the food coming along?"

"The, uh, fire's not cooperating," Xander remarked as he tended to the pile of sticks before him and the faint smoke trails above them. "It's comforting to know that I lack the culinary finesse of a caveman."

"Ignis incende," Willow uttered, gesturing at the makeshift barbecue. The logs burst into flames, making its previous tender fall backwards into the sand.

"Willow, check you out!" Buffy uttered in appreciation. "Witch-fu."

"It's no big," the redhead replied modestly. "You just have to balance the elements so when you affect one, you don't wind up causing..."

The rest of the words were abruptly cut off, as a clap of thunder occurred and the heavens opened.

"I didn't do it! I didn't do it!" Willow protested as they scrambled up from the sand and gathered their stuff.

"You know, I'm not one whose overly superstitious, does this look portenty to you?" The slayer asked the former watcher of the group.

"I wouldn't worry," Wesley answered as they dashed to the cars. "Demons rarely use such theatrics."

 


As evening set in on the dale of Boca del Inferno, a delivery truck pulled up outside a suddenly built castle across town. Two guys got out of their seats in the front and walked around to the rear, where they lifted the tarpaulin off the couriered wooden crate.

"Come on, hurry it up," said one. "I'm getting soaked."

"I'm trying," the other protested. "Geez, this thing weighs-"

He suddenly yanked at the handle and the box decided to take matters into its own hands by falling to the ground. The corner which hit the asphalt first cracked.

"Nice," the first guy uttered, his tone belying the usual meaning. "Good job," he added sarcastically.

The culprit ignored him, kneeling down to survey the damage. "Look at this. Guy's carting dirt around."

"Leave it," the first guy decided. "We'll, turn it on its side."

"Dirt," the other repeated. "Man, rich people are-" again his words were cut off.

Just not by the box.

A hand burst through the middle and slashed open his throat in one stroke. The guy screamed and staggered backwards.

The rest of the package followed the hand.

 


"Thanks, Mom. Everything was yummy."

"Good. It's nice to cook for you two for a change." Joyce began clearing everything into piles. "How are you doing?" She asked the third member of the dinner party.

"Quite well, actually," Angel replied. "Taste buds are finally acclimatised."

"I told you, mate," his grandchilde said, "you gotta stick to the occasional solid meal. Liquid's just not enough." He paused to turn to Joyce. "Speaking of which; don't suppose I could have some Hot Chocolate?"

"Of course," Joyce said with a smile. "Marshmallows as usual?"

"Please," Spike replied, while the chosen warriors rolled their eyes.

"What about you two?" Joyce asked them. "Or we could take a drive, get some ice cream."

"You know, I would, but I kinda have to get out on patrol," Buffy answered as she stood up and helped with the dishes.

Her mother looked at her puzzled. "Now? It's 8:30."

"Well, vamps don't really care what time it is. You know, dark equals dinner bell."

"Right, of course," Joyce answered, as she met Angel's silent look. Buffy was oblivious as she gave her soulmate a kiss before departure.

"She's been patrolling a lot, lately," Angel uttered when the front door of Revello Drive had closed.

"Enough for you to be concerned?" Joyce sought to confirm.

"I would be, if Giles' wasn't giving her extra tutelage on the mysteries of the slayer," Angel answered. "But I get the feeling something big is coming."

 


True to her prediction the slayer found her spider sense tingling as she reached the first of the graveyards on her patrol list that evening. She watched him rise from the ground, waited for the demon to get it's bearings, then beckoned him into the fight.

For a newly risen creature of the undead, the vampire was particularly strong, causing the fight to include the slayer falling to ground at one point. Buffy however, was in the zone, and merely upped her game. She jumped on him, throwing her legs around his neck. The vampire threw her down to the ground, whereupon she flipped herself into a cartwheel and staked him.

Satisfied at the pile of ash before her, Buffy turned away to continue her sweep of the cemetery. Barely had she reached the first aisle of gravestones when her senses made her stop.

"Very impressive hunt," a voice remarked, as it's body walked out of the darkness. "Such power."

"That was no hunt," Buffy revealed. "That was just another day on the job." She beckoned with her stake. "Care to step up for some overtime?"

"We're not going to fight," the vampire answered.

"Do you know what a slayer is?" Buffy asked.

"Do you?" He countered.

"Who are you?" Buffy inquired.

"I apologise," the vampire answered. "I assumed you knew. I am Dracula."

Buffy's eyes widened in surprise. "Get out!" She stared at him, taking in the hollowed face, dark hair, accent and outfit. "So lemme get this straight. You're ..... Dracula. The guy, the Count."

"I am."

"And you're sure this isn't just some fan boy thing? Cause ... I've fought more than a couple of pimply overweight vamps that called themselves Lestat."

"You know who I am. As I would now without question that you are Buffy Summers."

"You're heard of me?" Buffy queried.

"Naturally. You're known throughout the world."

"Naw. Really?"

"Why else would I come here? For the sun? I came to meet the renowned ... killer."

"Yeah, I prefer the term slayer. You know, killer just sounds so..."

"Naked?" Dracula finished.

"Like I ..." Buffy trailed off as her danger senses rose back up again. This guy had too much charm. "Paint clowns or something. I'm the good guy, remember?"

"Perhaps, but your power is rooted in darkness. You must feel it."

"No. You know what I feel?" Buffy readied herself. "Bored."

She rushed at him with the stake. Before she could plunge it into his chest, he disappeared into a puff of smoke. She turned round and tried again, only to be foiled once more. "Okay, that's cheating."

"Hey Buff, what's up?" Xander asked her as he and Willow came up to her.

"What are you guys doing here?"

"Nothing much, just out for an caffeine induced walk."

"Buffy, are you okay?" Willow began. "you look like you just-"

Her best friend readied her stake. "Get out of here. Now."

"Fine, but I was gonna give you a sip of my double-mint mocha, but.."

Buffy cut him off. "Behind you."

"Hi," Willow offered as she and Xander turned round.

"Nice," Xander uttered. "Look who's got a bad case of dark prince envy."

"I have no interest in you," Dracula remarked. "Leave us."

"No, we're not going to 'leave you.'" Xander mocked. "And where'd you get that accent, Sesame Street? Vun, two, three; three victims. Mwa ha ha!"

"Xander," Buffy began in a tone which brooked no nonsense. "I'm pretty sure that's Dracula."

"Wow, really?" Xander rushed to stand behind her. "Hey, sorry, man, I was ... just jokin' around."

"This is not the time," the Count remarked. "I will see you soon," he added to the slayer, before spreading out his cape and running towards them.

The Scoobies ducked as he turned into a Bat.

 


"And then Buffy's all, 'Look out!'" Xander recapped to the rest of Slayer Inc. in the meeting at 523B Oakpark Street a half hour later. "And then frigging Dracula's standing right behind us."

"And then, he lunges at us, like whoosh!" Willow added.

"He totally looked shorter in person," Xander commented.

"I told you he'd heard of me, right?" Buffy added to Giles. "I mean, can you believe that? Count Famous heard of me."

"I couldn't believe it the first twenty times you told us, but it's starting to sink in now," Cordelia replied.

"I'm sorry. Am I repeat-o-girl? I was just ... blown away."

"It's not that surprising that he's heard of you, Buffy," Wes remarked. "You are the slayer."

"I guess. Just - the way he said it, you know, I mean, he made it sound so..." she trailed off.

"Sexy?" Willow suggested. "I bet he made it sound sexy."

"Kinda," Buffy agreed. "He of the dark penetrating eyes and lilty accent." Glancing at Angel, she added, "not that I was attracted, oh no."

"I wonder if he knows Frankenstein," Xander mused.

"You thought Dracula was sexy?" Oz queried.

"Oh! No. He, he was ... yuck," Willow finished hurriedly.

"Right, except for the whole tall, dark, and handsome thing?" Anya said sarcastically.

"How would you know?" Her boyfriend countered.

"Well, we hung out a few times," Anya revealed. "Back in my demon days, you know, once or twice. He's pretty cool. You know, from, from a whole ... evil thing perspective."

"Please," Xander scoffed. "He was no big whoop."

"No big whoop??" Willow repeated in disbelief. "What about that thing where he turned himself into a bat? That was awesome!"

"How come he can do that?" Xander asked the room.

"I have no idea," Giles answered. "There's a great deal of myth about Dracula. I imagine the trick to defeating him lies in separating the fact from the fiction."

"So we should take things slow with Dracula," Buffy decided. "I mean, he said that we would meet again, but I would like to avoid that until we do some serious homework."

"Buffy's right," Anya added. "Dracula's too slick to fall for the usual stuff."

"Dracula?" Spike scoffed. "Vampires were cool until him, luv."

"You know him?" Xander sought to confirm.

"Poncy bugger owes me eleven pounds, for one thing. Know him? We're old rivals. But then he got famous, forgot all about his foes. I'll tell you what. That glory hound's done more harm to vampires than any slayer. His story gets out, and suddenly everybody knows how to kill us."

"What about the bat thing?" Tara asked.

"Nothing but showy gypsy stuff," Angel answered, surprising everyone. He shrugged. "You don't get to be once be the Scourge of Europe without knowing your rivals."

"He wasn't much of a rival," Spike remarked. "Mind you, he had the lead on your demon and Darla in the style sense. Count has to have his luxury estate and his bug-eaters and his special dirt, don't he?"

"You two know anything else about him?" Giles asked.

"Not much else," Angel admitted. "For all his style, Drac liked to retain that bit of mystery."

"All right," Giles turned to the computer whispers of the group. "Willow, you and Oz find out everything you can about the actual legend of Vlad the Impaler on the Internet, and I'll check the library. The rest of you, get some sleep."

"Yes sir," Buffy saluted as she rose up from her chair. "Can I say goodnight to my godson, first?"

"As long as you don't wake him up," Jenny advised as she led the way to the bedroom.

Buffy quietly crept into the room and peered at her sleeping godchild. She had been so touched when Giles and Jenny asked her to godmother during the summer. "He's awake already." Carefully she lifted him out of the cot.

Jenny smiled at her as Angel joined them at the threshold. "I don't know how you do that," she uttered as Buffy held him. "With you, Ellis is always quiet."

Buffy returned a silent look of thanks, and met Angel's gaze. "Don't get any ideas, mister. Some miles to go before I'm ready for this."

"And my Shanshu," Angel added as he came to join her. "Don't worry, I'm not ready yet either," he added, as he gazed over her shoulder at his godson. He had been speechless at Giles and Jenny's level of trust in him. "Its just, you look so beautiful."

Buffy blushed, then carefully returned Ellis Calendar-Giles to his bed. "You sleep now, little brother," she commanded softly, remembering how after his birth Giles had confessed to her that he regarded her as a daughter. "We'll protect you from harm."

 


"I doubt he'd remember me," an ex-vengeance demon mused to her boyfriend as he walked her home. "I was just a silly young thing. I mean, like seven hundred or so. But he did say that this guy I cursed was doomed forever, which was really sweet, don't you think?"

"Adorable," Xander uttered sarcastically.

"It was a great spell," Anya continued, oblivious. "I made this jerk incredibly fat, like a human mini van. You should just mention my name if you see him again."

"Or better yet, why don't you just go sit on top of a crypt and flaunt your neck cleavage until Dracula shows up? Then you two can talk in private," Xander suggested, his sarcasm upping another level.

"Oh please, don't tell me you're jealous."

"Oh no, just because you're panting over the guy."

They reached her apartment.

"I am not panting. Now stop being silly. I'll see you tomorrow." Anya leaned forward to kiss him goodnight.

Xander drew back from the kiss in surprise. "You don't wanna come back to my place?"

"Not when you're acting like this."

"Fine," Xander added, insulted and storming off. He rounded the corner of the street and found the topic of Anya's monologue standing before him. "Great. Perfect. You know what? You're not so big. One round of old-fashioned fisticuffs, you'd fold like a bitty baby." He rolled up his sleeves. "Okay, let's do it. And no poofing. Come on, puffy shirt. Pucker on up, cause you can kiss your pale ass....."

"Silence," Dracula intoned.

"Yes master," Xander answered immediately. A second later, he realised what he had just said. "No, that's not-"

Dracula raised a thin, spectral looking hand. "You will be my emissary, my eyes and ears in daylight."

"Your emissary?" Xander echoed.

"Serve me well. You will be rewarded. I will make you an immortal. A child of darkness that feeds on life itself... on blood."

"Blood? Yes! Yes! I will serve you, your excellent spookiness." Off his glare, Xander added, "or master. I'll just stick with master."

"You are strange and off-putting. Go now."

Xander inclined his head and turned to go. In afterthought, he turned back. "But master, how can I find...." he trailed off as he realised the Count had gone. "Brilliant. What an exit! Guy's a genius!"

 


Having acquired his assistant, the 'genius' decided to test the slayer's susceptibility towards him, and swirled his smoke into the window of the master suite at the Mansion on Crawford Street.

Buffy felt the breeze and opened her eyes to see him standing before the bed.

"You are magnificent," Dracula intoned.

"I bet you say that before you bite all the girls," Buffy countered, while her hand touched her sleeping soulmate, a silent signal for him to wake and listen.

"No, you are different. Kindred."

"Kindred?" Buffy repeated, spooked. "Hardly, I-"

"Pull your hair back," the Count commanded.

Self-conscious under his gaze, Buffy tried to keep her composure. "This isn't how I ... usually fight. You think you can just waft in here with your music video wind and your hypno-eyes..."

"I have searched the world over for you. I have yearned for you." Dracula sat on the bed. "For a creature whose darkness rivals my own." He placed his hand on her chin to turn her neck. "You have been tasted," he observed.

"He's......" Buffy began but he cut her off. "Unworthy. He let you go." Dracula's gaze went from the scar to her eyes. "But the embrace ... his bite ... you remember." His hand slipped downward. "Do not fight. I can feel your hunger."

"Can you feel this?" Angel asked before his fist connected with Dracula's face.

Buffy leapt aside off the bed while their intruder reeled backwards from the blow. The slayer switched on the light.

"Angelus," Dracula remarked as he recognised him.

"If you had let me finish," Buffy remarked, "I was going to say; he's here."

"I had no idea you were with the slayer," Dracula continued, ignoring her. "I apologise." He disappeared into another puff of smoke.

 


"Here's a jelly one, you want it?" Oz asked, his girl.

"Got it!" Xander cried, grabbing before Willow could accept it. "Got it. Mine, mine."

"Well, I think we have Dracula factoids," Willow remarked, looking up from her laptop.

Slayer Inc. had returned to their unofficial headquarters on Oakpark Street after the nightly encounters early the next morning.

"Like any of that's enough to fight the Dark Master," Xander remarked, making everyone look at him. "...bator," he covered hurriedly.

"A lot of it we already knew," Willow continued. "Turnoffs: wood, fire, crosses, garlic. Turn-ons: nice duds, minions," her voice turned wistful. "Long slow bites that last for days..."

Oz looked at her concerned, and decided to take over. "Dracula's modus operandi is different from other vampires. He will kill just to feed, but he'd rather have a connection with his victims. And he has all of these mental powers to draw them in."

"He, he can read and control minds... appear in dreams..." Willow added. "Makes sense. That stare ... he just kinda ... looked right through you. Didn't you feel it, Buffy?"

"Not after he decided to visit me and Angel last night."

"See!" Xander jumped in. "Buffy didn't feel it. I think you're drawing a low of crazy conclusions about the unholy prince." Everyone looked at him again, causing him to add, "...bator."

"The point is, though he goes through the motions of an intimate seduction," Giles concluded, "the end result is the same. He turns them into a vampire."

"Well. That is intimate," Xander countered. "Dracula's gifting these ladies with his own blood. And blood...." he trailed off as his eyes tracked the path of a spider. "Blood is life. According to them." He slammed his hand down on it.

"Just be aware that he tends to form a relationship with his prey," Giles continued while, unseen, Xander ate the spider. "It's not enough for him to take her. She must want to be taken. She must ... burn for him."

Buffy shivered. "Okay, did anyone hear me when I said he visited last night?" She turned to Jenny. "Can we not gonna and perform the uninvited spell already?"

"Sorry, Buffy, the spell doesn't work when you live with vampires," Jenny remarked.

"Can't we rewrite it?" Tara asked her. "Make it identity specific?"

"Worth a try," Jenny conceded.

"Meanwhile, you should stay out of sight," her husband directed to his charge. "Let the rest of us look for Dracula."

"I can't go home," Buffy pointed out.

"You can come over to my place," Xander volunteered. "I'll make sure you stay put."

"Good," Giles agreed. "Angel and I can search for Dracula, and Willow, you and Tara could do a protection spell on the Mansion, and prevent him from returning."

 


"Another bust," Angel remarked as they ruled out yet another Mansion.

"And it's getting dark," Giles observed. "I should have turned up a better lead. There must be an easier way to find him."

"Too late to worry about that now," Angel pointed out. "If we hurry, we can hit these last places."

 


"How come I have to be here slayer-sitting while the other guys get to look for Dracula?" Anya asked her pacing boyfriend. "I mean, just because I'm...."

"What time is it?" He interrupted.

"Uh, almost six," Anya rose from the sofa to stand before him. "Look, I mean, I'm the one who knows him, I'm the one who had a really good look at him, and so, I mean, what..... Hey! What?"

Xander grabbed his girlfriend and shut her in his wardrobe. After putting a chair underneath the doorknob, he turned to Buffy. "I'm supposed to deliver you to the master now. There's this whole deal where I get to be immortal. You cool with that?"

The slayer rose up. "Take me to him."

 


At the same suddenly built castle referred to earlier, the 'Renfield' and the slayer entered a wooden torch lit great hall.

"Master?" The former called out. "I deliver the slayer. She who you most desire. Sorry, whom."

Dracula turned to stand before the flames.

"So now comes the immortality, right? You do the thing, and-"

"Leave us," Dracula commanded. "We must not be interrupted."

"You bet." Xander bowed and left.

"I knew you'd come," Dracula remarked.

"Why?" Buffy countered. "Because I'm under your thrall?" She dropped her dazed look and whipped out a stake. "Well, guess again, pal."

"Put the stake down," Dracula commanded.

"Okay," Buffy uttered. She moved her hand a fraction. "Still not thralled, buster."

 


"I've lived in Sunnydale about six years now," Angel commented. "Know what I've never noticed before?"

"A castle?" Giles remarked.

"A castle," Angel agreed as they advanced towards it.

 


"Do you know why you will not resist?" Dracula asked her.

"'Cause you're famous?" Buffy challenged.

"Because you do not want to."

"Angel and Giles...."

"They're here," Dracula remarked. "They will not find us. We are alone. Always alone." He began to circle her. "There is so much I have to teach you. Your history, your power ... what your body is capable of..."

"I don't need to know," Buffy remarked.

"You long to. And you will have eternity to discover yourself. But first ... a little taste."

"I won't let you."

"I didn't mean for me."

 


"Nobody harms my master," Xander announced to Angel.

"Your master?" Angel echoed.

"You want him? You come through me."

Angel punched him in the face. Xander fell down. "Okay."

 


Meanwhile, Giles was about to face a similar impasse. In the form of a sudden drop behind a door.

"Oh, good show, Giles," he remarked to himself as he carefully tried to rise. "Uhh... at least you didn't get knocked out for a change." He turned, only realise that he was not alone. "Oh ... oh, ladies."

Three vampiresses began crawling over him.

"You would ... be the three sisters, yes? E-excellent, right. Uh, I'd heard that you were myth ... obviously erroneous." One of them ripped open his shirt. "Aah! Ooh, that's, uh, that, uh... tickles! Ooh, uh... oh, dear god. I'm married, you know, you must..... stop....."

 


Buffy looked at the Count in disbelief. "What are you...."

"All those years fighting us. Your power so near to our own...... and you've never once wanted to know what it is that we fight for? Never even a taste?"

Come on, Buffy thought silently. Just a little longer..... "If I drink that....."

"I have not drunk you. And you must be near death to become one of us. And that comes only when you plead for it."

"I'm not hungry."

"No. Your craving goes deeper than that." His voice dropped to a whisper. "You think you know ... what you are ... what's to come. You haven't even begun." He offered his wrist before her mouth. "Find it. The darkness. Find your true nature."

Buffy's empty hand suddenly shot out and grabbed his wrist. She jerked it away from the join, the momentum throwing him across the wooden table. "Wow. Does that work on every slayer?"

"You are resisting," Dracula observed as he got up.

"Looks like."

"Come here. Come to me."

"You know, I really think the thrall has gone out of our relationship."

"What is this?"

"My true nature. You want a taste?"

Dracula lunged at her.

 


"Buffy?" Angel called out as he opened another door. "Are you in-" he quickly stepped back from the drop. "Giles! Giles!" Ignoring the pain, he took a cross out of his pocket and chucked it to the watcher. "Come on, come on. Grab my hand."

Giles scrambled to the wall. "Thank god you came. There was no possible escape." He stared back at the sisters.

Angel pulled him to his ground.

"Oh, my shoe," Giles cried. "Silly me, I'll just pop-"

"No, no," Angel remarked, grabbing him and dragging him out of the room. "Trust me, those three aren't worth it."

 


Buffy slipped her stake through her belt and grabbed a torch from the wall, which she threw across the table. "A guy like you should think about going electric. Seriously."

Dracula growled and turned into smoke. Buffy merely stilled, and waited for him to reappear, whereupon, she staked him. "How do you like my darkness now?"

He turned into ash upon the stairs.

"Buffy! You okay?" Giles asked as he and Angel ran into the hall.

"Yeah. Chock full of free will."

"And Dracula?" Angel asked.

"Eurotrashed."

"Where is he?" Xander asked, rushing in, carrying a torch. "Where's the creep that turned me into his spider-eating man-bitch?"

"He's gone," Buffy informed her friend.

"Dammit!" Xander chucked the torch across the room in frustration. "You know what? I'm sick of this crap. I'm sick of being the guy who eats insects. As of this moment, it's over. I'm finished being everybody's butt-monkey!"

"Check. No more butt-monkey," Buffy uttered, while the others tried not to laugh.

"It could have been worse. At least you weren't making time with the vampiresses, like Giles here," Angel remarked.

"I was not making time!" Giles protested. "I, I was, uh, just about to kill those, uh, loathsome creatures when Angel interrupted me."

Angel smirked. "You were gonna nuzzle 'em to death?"

"Of course not! I was in complete... control."

They started to head out of the castle.

Castle stayed empty for a moment. Torches flickered in the sudden mild breeze.

Smoke of the undead began to band together.

As soon as the cloud became flesh, a hand shot out and thrust a stake into the chest.

"You think I don't watch your movies?" Buffy rolled her eyes in disgust. "You always come back."

Ashes dissipated for just a moment.

"I'm standing right here!" Buffy remarked as he tried to reform.

 


"You wanted to see me?"

Buffy stepped back from the doorway to let her watcher into the Mansion. "Yes. Thanks for coming. Can I offer you some tea?"

"Er, thank you," Giles uttered as he followed her into the double-height living. "What is this all about?" He asked her after she had poured out the Earl Grey.

"You haven't been my Watcher for a while, officially. We've still trained, and I've been studying over the summer...." Buffy paused. "And then this whole thing with Dracula ... it made me face up to some stuff. Ever since we did that spell where we called on the first slayer ... I've been going out a lot. Every night."

"Patrolling?" Giles sought to confirm. This was the first he heard of it.

"Hunting. That's ... what Dracula called it. And he was right. He understood my power better than I do. He saw darkness in it. I need to know more. About where I come from, about the other slayers. I mean, maybe ... maybe if I could learn to control this thing, I could be stronger, I could be better. But ... I'm scared. I know it's gonna be hard. And I can't do it ... without you. I need your help. I need you to be my Watcher again."

"And I will be," Giles replied. "Always."

The End.
To Be Continued In.

Elita.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: In this story you find out how I have dealt with Dawn. Some elements of the original episode remain; Harmony and the Magic Shop incident, although the latter gains a surprising new owner, different from the cannon. Enjoy.

Elita.

It was another sunny morning in the town christened with that title, and under the yellow halo of that celestial object which was covering the shopping street of Maple Court, a red convertible drove down the road.

"There's a lot of books on this list," one of the passengers commented to its driver. "Any of them come on tape? You know, read by George Clooney or someone cute like that?"

"You're entering a new realm here, Buffy," her watcher answered. "One for which I myself am not entirely prepared. Are you ready for this commitment?"

"I'm just kidding! Hey, this Betty's ready. Color me committed."

An increase of noise from engine sounded at this point, causing it's owner to swear. "Blast!"

"You put it in neutral again, huh?" Angel sought to confirm.

"I'm just not used to this automatic transmission," Giles replied. "I loathe this sitting here, not contributing." He sighed. "To be honest, it's not working out."

"Giles, are you breaking up with your car?" Buffy asked.

"Well, it did seduce me," he answered. "All red and sporty!"

"Little two-door tramp," Buffy emphasised bemusedly, only to be greeted with a sour look by the owner.

"I don't know," Giles sighed. "I just - I was at such a loose end, I found myself searching for ... some way of feeling more..."

"Shallow?" Buffy finished.

"Perhaps, as I am to act as your Watcher again, a modicum of respect might be in order," Giles admonished.

"Do I have to?" His slayer pouted, while Angel hid a smile behind his hand in the rear passenger seats.

"I'm serious, Buffy, there's going to be far less time for the sort of flighty, frivolous-"

"Hey, there's Willow and Tara!" Buffy interrupted.

Giles slowed. "Ooh, they haven't seen my new car." He pulled over to meet them.

"Hey Giles, sharp wheels!" Willow commented.

"The rest of the car's nice too," Tara added, as the trio climbed out of its luxurious leather interior.

"Handles like a dream," Giles boasted.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Where are you guys heading?"

"Magic shop," Willow replied. "I have some charms on back order."

"So, is your training regime sorted?" Tara asked as they started to walk the rest of the way to the store.

"Barring supplies," Buffy answered. "Giles and I worked out a whole schedule around school. A block of time every day just to focus on my new slayer training."

"That's a work ethic!" Willow cried with joy. "Buffy, you're developing a work ethic."

"Oh, no," Buffy remarked in mock shock. "Do they make an ointment for that?"

"People gotta respect a solid work ethic," Willow commented. "Look at you, motivated Buffy. Eager to soak up learning. Oh, you and I are gonna have so much fun this semester."

Buffy halted mid-walk. "Yeah, that reminds me. With the whole new training schedule, I kinda had to drop a class."

"That's understandable," her best friend said. "Your slayer studies are way more important."

"So I won't be taking drama with you," Buffy finished as they arrived outside number 5124, otherwise known as the Magic Shop.

"What? You have to, you promised!" The redhead looked heartbroken.

"Well, I know, but Giles said that it just was...."

"The hell with Giles," Willow cut in, causing the Watcher to turn round. "I can hear you, Willow."

The witch sent him an apologetic look before continuing. "Drama is just Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. You can blow off training Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, can't you?"

"What happened to 'people gotta respect a work ethic?'" Buffy asked her.

"Other people, not me! There's a whole best friend loophole." Willow protested.

"I'm sorry, Will, but I can't," Buffy replied. Her best friend met her look, and sighed, surrendering. "It's okay, I'm not taking it, anyway. That encounter with the first slayer scared me off for good."

"Hey, you two," Tara called them to the windows of the Magic, where she, Angel and Giles had been looking through for the past few minutes. "Shop's kinda dark. Maybe it's closed."

"That's odd," Giles commented. He stepped back from the window, ready to enter, only to encounter two more people. "Wes, what are you doing here?"

"Got an anonymous tip-off early this morning," Wesley replied as he and his other associate of Wyndam-Pryce Investigations joined the five. "Just before dawn, actually."

Cautiously the seven made their way inside the shop. Darkened windows did nothing to hide the ransacked appearance of the interior.

"Well, I think 'odd' just got upped to 'bad.'" The slayer commented as they surveyed the full extent of the damage.

"Hello? Anyone here?" Giles called out. "Mr. Bogarty?" Tara added, causing everyone to look at her with mild surprise. "The owner. I-I come in here a lot," she explained.

"Well," Willow began hopefully, "maybe this happened ... really late at night when nobody was..." she broke off as her foot tripped over something.

"Will?" Buffy called in concern. "I'm fine," the wiccan answered. "I just tripped over..." she trailed off as she caught sight of the corpse. "Mr. Bogarty," she finished, sorrowfully.

Tara caught sight of the body, took a breath, and walked outside for some air. Meanwhile the rest of the group surveyed the grim remains of the owner of the Magic shop and the chaos of the burglary.

"Judging by the bite-fest, I'd say it was more than one vampire," Buffy remarked. Her boyfriend bent closer to the corpse to make a more informed estimate. "I make it four at least," he remarked.

"Looks like someone's put together a new fang club," Spike commented before walking over to the counter where Willow stood.

"Well, I've cross-checked the inventory list," the wiccan declared, "and things are definitely missing. Mostly books. Including A Treatise on the Mythology and Methodology of the Vampire Slayer." Spike looked over her shoulder at the open pages, while the slayer studied her supply list.

"Oh, shoot! Was that the only copy?" She asked them.

"Come on, Buffy, this could be very serious," Giles admonished. "Whoever's leading this pack of vampires appears to be interested in learning more about you. Perhaps searching for weaknesses or ....."

"Blimey," Spike cried, cutting him off. "What?" Buffy asked.

"I had no idea the profit margins on a shop like this were so high," Spike replied. "Look at this! Uh, low overhead, out-of-state orders, international - it's no wonder there's never any trouble attracting new owners. A place like this is a virtual-"

"Deathtrap?" Angel pointed out.

"There is that," his childe allowed. "But, still... Location, pedestrian traffic..." he trailed off as he glanced outside. "I'm gonna go and check on Tara," he added before heading outside.

"Buffy," her watcher continued. "You should begin looking for their lair straight away," was all Spike caught before he closed the door to join Tara.

"Hey," he remarked, before sitting next to her on the pavement. As he made himself comfortable, he consciously touched the new piece of jewelry which he had acquired during the summer. The small silver talisman glowed in the sunlight. "You, alright?" He asked the witch who had given it to him.

"Yeah, its just a shame," Tara replied. "I liked Mr Bogarty." She turned to him. "Aren't you meant to be investigating?"

"Nah, it's slayer territory now." Spike shrugged. "Buffy can handle it. I was more concerned about you."

"Me?" Tara queried, surprised. Spike grinned at her. "Shocking, I know. So, what's wrong? Don't you feel part of the group, still?"

"Alittle," Tara confessed. "I know Buffy and I have been real close during the summer, but when something like this comes up, I feel...."

"Out of your depth?" Spike guessed intuitively. "Most do. My advice is to just stick with the gang, offer what insight you feel you can. The feeling soon goes away."

"Thank you," Tara said, smiling at him. Spike returned the expression, then rose from the pavement. "Come on," he said, holding out his hand. She took it and together they re-entered the shop.

"Oh, hello," Giles was heard to be saying as the two entered. "Something's been taken from this case, look here."

Buffy turned to Willow, who was still by the inventory book. "What'd they take?"

"I should think an item of value," Giles mused, "or-or power, possibly even a-"

"A unicorn. 10-inch ceramic unicorn imported from Thailand," Willow informed the group at large.

"Was it valuable?" Buffy asked her best friend.

"List price, $12.95." She replied.

"Which begs the question," Giles began. "What kind of an unholy creature fancies cheap tasteless statuary?"

 


Meanwhile, across and below town, the new leader of a new fang gang had called her first meeting of the morning. "Okay, hi. First of all, I wanna thank everybody for a really successful raid on the magic shop last night. Good job, minions!" Harmony clapped at them. Apart from one, the rest looked bored. "Yes, you deserve it. Secondly... somebody remembered to pick me up the sweetest little unicorn!" She smiled at the vampire in question, while his guys turned to in exasperation. "What?" He queried.

"Brad, guess someone was feeling guilty for standing me up in the tenth grade," Harmony mused as she admired the unicorn.

"I had to get her something. She sired me," Brad protested.

"Sire-whipped," Peaches muttered to Cyrus.

"Anyway, the books you guys brought me to help with the plan?" Harmony paused to gestured to the pile of accumulated info on the slayer. "Well, I've been skimming through the book jackets all morning, and let me tell you, there's some pretty useful stuff in there, so-" she broke off as one of the vamps raised his hand. "Yes, uh ... sorry, forgot your name."

"Cyrus." The minion informed her.

"Cyrus, huh, right. Peaches' friend. What's your question?"

"When are we gonna do it?" He asked.

His leader was disgusted. "Eww! That's rude! I barely know you! Uch, and you're a minion!"

"He means the plan!" Another minion, Mort informed her. "When are we gonna do the plan?"

"Ohhh! The plan! Ah, well, first lemme tell you I'm really psyched about it and I hope the rest of you guys-"

"WHEN?!" Mort yelled.

"Tonight!" Harmony cried back. "We kill the slayer ... tonight."

 


"Your turn."

"Right," Angel mused, gazing at the board. It was evening, and the slayerettes had moved their unofficial headquarters temporarily to the Mansion on Crawford Street, as Ellis was having restless nights. The meeting was drawn to a close with Buffy going out on patrol. The youthful generation of the group now remained sequestered in the double height living room, playing games as they waited her return. Angel made his move and then passed the dice to the next player.

"Oh, crap" Anya commented. "Look at this! Now I'm burdened with a husband and several tiny pink children, more cash than I can reasonably manage..."

"That means you're winning," Xander pointed out.

"Really?" Anya queried. "Yes. Cash equals good," Her boyfriend affirmed. "Ooh! I'm so pleased. Can I trade in the children for more cash?"

"I can't believe how much money the Magic shop makes," a voice commented over by the coffee table.

"So you've said constantly for the past three hours," Angel remarked as he rose up from the floor to opt out of the game.

"I'm serious, mate, this look like a really good investment to put all my winnings from poker," Spike continued, oblivious.

"How can you buy a shop with kittens?" Tara asked him.

"Oh, I sold them for cash. To nice homes, I swear," Spike groaned. "You lot are making me soft, you know."

The sound of smashing glass was the only reply to his comment, and the slayerettes leaped out of glass' trajectory, watching as the missile; a brick with some paper tied around it, landed on the stone floor.

Xander advanced cautiously to pick the offending item up. "'Slayer, come out and die,'" he read off the unwound note.

"I'm waiting for you, Buffy!" A familiar voice shouted from outside, causing the gang to go to the window. "I know you're in there!"

The gang advanced to the doorway. "Sorry, Harm," Cordelia remarked as she caught sight of her old friend. "Buffy's not here."

"What do you mean, she's not in there?" Harmony countered, annoyed. "She has to be. I'm calling her out!"

"Then I bet she'll be real sorry she missed your call," Xander remarked. "'Fraid you and your buddies are gonna have to come back and be killed by Buffy later."

"They're not my buddies. They're my minions," Harmony informed them.

"They're ... what now?" Angel asked.

"Minions! You know, lackeys? They work for me."

The gang looked at her in disbelief for a moment. Then the funny side of the scene was realised as they started to laugh.

"What's so funny?!" Harmony asked angrily.

"Nothing!" Cordelia protested, still laughing. "What could be funny, just 'Look out, it's a terrifying Harmony gang, ooh!'"

"Stop laughing!" Harmony cried, rushing forward to try and attack her. Only to encounter the invisible barrier. "Hey, I thought I could enter a house owned by a vamp."

"Little spell," Cordelia remarked. "Big barrier."

Xander recovered enough to speak. "I just, I just can't picture anyone pathetic enough to be following...... Is that Brad Konig? Huh! Hey Brad, who'd have thought when you were beating up kids in gym class, you'd end up Harmony's lapdog?"

"Screw you, Harris," Brad countered.

"You should know all about being somebody's lapdog," Harmony added. "I hear you were a good little puppy for Dracula."

"You heard wrong," Xander lied.

Now it was Hamorny's turn to laugh. "Don't feel bad. I hear that mind-control thing he does works really well on weak fraidy-cat losers. You didn't stand a chance."

"Shut up, Harmony!" Xander cried.

"Make me." She challenged.

"Fraid I don't feel like getting into another hair-pulling contest with you," Xander replied with a shrug.

"You're the hair-puller, you big girl!" Harmony sighed. "This isn't over, Xander! I'll be back! And the slayer better be here the next time!"

"And we'll be ready for you! Stakes ... crosses ... the whole enchilada," Cordelia remarked before closing the door.

Angel looked at the group. "Buffy is not going to be happy about this," he declared.

 



"Harmony ... " Laughter. Deep breath. More laughter. "Harmony has minions?"

"Yeah, that was pretty much our reaction," Cordelia remarked.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry." Buffy tried to get sober. She had just returned from a fruitless patrol to find the vamps had declared war on her in her absence. "It's just ... Harmony has minions!" The giggles started again.

"And Ruffles have ridges," Xander added. "Uh, Buffy, there's actually a more serious side to all this."

"I sure hope so, 'cause I'm having trouble breathing." Buffy took another deep breath. "What is it?"

"Well, she did come here to kill you," Angel informed her. Buffy burst out laughing again, and this time her boyfriend joined her.

Ten minutes passed before the slayer could be relied upon to remain serious. "Okay, did she say anything else?"

"Aside from taunting Xander?" Cordelia remarked. "Nothing."

"In that case, we better get someone on to her. She can't have gone that far." Buffy looked around the group, and found the person she knew would do.

The bleached blond vampire looked up from his piles of papers, took one look at the slayer's expression, and groaned. "No! No way."

"Please, Spike." Buffy pleaded.

"As entertaining as it is seeing you beg me, Buff, no," Spike replied.

"Come on, Spike you did used to date her," Angel added. "Aside from Cordelia, you're the one most suited to tracking her down."

"Fine!" Spike got up from his chair, grabbed his leather and walked out the door. "I'll be back before dawn."

 


"What a total disaster," Harmony said as she and her minions walked back to their hideout. "My first plan! I so wanted it to go well. Plus, I didn't even get to kill stupid Xander Harris! God, that was so embarrassing."

"We'll go back later," Mort suggested.

Harmony shook her head. "It's no good. Buffy's gonna expect us now. The whole surprise is blown."

"Who are you growling at?" Peaches asked his friend.

"Not me, my stomach," Cyrus explained. "If I don't eat somebody soon, I'll get dizzy."

"Let's go back to the lair. That census taker may not be empty yet," Peaches decided.

"Not me. This night is young, and I want some action," Brad declared.

Suddenly a hand tapped his shoulder, and he turned round, only to be greeted by a punch that sent him straight to the floor.

Spike grinned at them. "Happy to oblige. Here I thought it was gonna be a slow night. Step on up, kiddies. Thrashings for all."

"Stop!" Harmony commanded. Spike pretended to look surprised. "Well. Hello, Harm."

"Spikey. I mean, Spike," Harmony returned.

"Long time," Spike sympathised. "You look good."

"I feel good," Harmony remarked, causing him to smirk. "I remember."

"Why are you talking to him?" Mort asked.

"It's okay, we used to go steady. Spike, Mort. Mort, this is-" Mort cut her off. "I know who he is. He kills our kind."

"Oh yeah! What's up with that?" Harmony asked him.

Spike shrugged. "Bloke's gotta have a hobby, don't he? Piss off, Mort."

Mort growled warningly, but Harmony stopped him and stepped away to talk to Spike. "Mort, just give us ... a couple minutes, 'kay? He's really testy. Some of us were thinking of voting him out of the gang."

"Gang?" Spike echoed.

"Oh, yeah. I've got my own gang now," Harmony declared proudly.

"Is that what those circus freaks are?" Spike smirked.

"Uhuh. I mean ... shut up! We're gonna kill the slayer."

Spike raised an eyebrow at her. His hanging with the slayerettes had somehow yet to make news in the underground. "Singing my song now, are you? You should pay me royalties for that one, or at least get your own tune."

"I'm not gonna make the same mistakes you did. I've been doing my homework, reading books and stuff."

Spike scoffed. "What, Evil for Dummies? Look at you, all puffed up and mighty, thinking you're the new Big Bad. It's, uh ... well, let's face it, it's adorable."

"You just can't stand the fact that I'm my own person now. There comes a time in every woman's life when she realizes she needs to take the next step. I've taken it. I've found the real me... and I like her."

"Hope you'll be very happy together. In the meantime, save slayer slaying for the professionals."

"You'll see. Buffy'll be dead by sunrise. I've got a plan."

"Lemme guess," Spike said, chuckling. "Snatch one of her friends, use 'em as bait, lead her into a trap. That sort of thing?"

"No! Much, much better one. I'm not gonna tell you!"

"Thought as much. Best of luck. Let me know how this arch-villain thing works out for you," he walked away.

"I'll do that. And after Buffy is gone? I'm gonna kill everybody in this town that was ever mean to me ... Spike!" Harmony waited until the bleach blond was out of sight, and then turned to the minions. "Guys! New plan."

She turned back to the direction of her lair. Spike walked back out of a nearby crypt and followed.

 


"All right, once again, nice work, minionators," Harmony commented a few hours later. I'm really, really proud of you guys. Ah, Mort. I trust you made our guest ...comfortable?"

"You told me to chain her to a wall," Mort replied confused.

"Yeah, I know, I'm being, you know, sarcastic or whatever? Anyway... I'm feeling really good about this new plan, people. I think it's a winner."

"When do we eat the girl?" Cyrus asked.

"We don't," Harmony informed him. "Not yet."

"Why not?" Cyrus asked.

"Because! That's not the plan! Do I have to go over the plan again? We use the girl as bait. We send Buffy a note-"

"More notes?" Peaches taunted.

Harmony ignored him. "We send Buffy a note, telling her that if she wants to see this girl again, she has to come alone to a place we choose. She comes, we jump her, we kill her."

"So it doesn't really matter if we're actually holding this girl, just as long as she thinks we are," Mort pointed out. "She'll walk into the trap."

"I guess," Harmony agreed.

"So it won't make any difference if we eat the girl now," Cyrus added.

"We're not eating the girl." Harmony reaffirmed.

"Why not?" Peaches asked.

"Cause! That's not the plan," Harmony replied.

 


A few minutes later and Spike was back in the living room of 1902 Crawford Street. "Predictable Harm," he commented as he entered the warm room, tossing his coat on the newel post.

"What's she done?" Angel asked him.

"Kidnapped some poor kid off the streets," Spike replied as he sat down on one of the sofas. "Girl looks barely fifteen. They're gonna send another note, asking you to come and rescue her, only it'll be a trap."

Buffy chuckled, but quickly sobered herself. "Well, I suppose I better go and spring it, anyway. Where's her hideout?"

"Cave in the north woods. About forty meters past the overpass construction site," Spike informed her. "Do you want some backup?"

"Nah, I can take Harmony and her minions," Buffy smiled. "I better get out of here before I start laughing again."

 


"They don't respect me," her nemesis whined inside said cave to her prisoner. "They pretend they do, but deep down they think I'm nothing. I mean, I'm the one who put this group together. Me! But they treat me like I don't even matter. Do you have any idea what that feels like?"

"A little," the girl answered.

"They have no idea how much pressure I'm under. I have to make all the hard decisions. And it's hard!"

Girl gasped just then, causing Harmony to turn round and see that her minions had entered the cell area. "Excuse me, I didn't hear anybody knock."

Mort stepped forward, electing to be spokesperson. "We've been talking it over, and we decided we don't like this plan."

"Except for Brad. He abstained," Peaches added scornfully.

"Oh really? You have a plan you like better?" Harmony challenged.

"We're gonna feed on the girl and kill you," Mort informed her. "Maybe not in that order."

"I don't think I like your attitude, Mort." Harmony turned to the others. "Kill him for me," she commanded. None of them moved. "All right. You're all on my list." she backed away as they advanced. "This isn't fair. Okay, so things haven't been perfect. I just need a little more time to grow into my leadership role."

"Time's up," Mort declared grabbing her by the throat. Cyrus walked towards the prisoner.

"Touch me and the slayer's gonna kill you," the girl informed him.

Cyrus laughed, then reached forward and poked her. Nothing happened, causing more laughter, this time from them all. He poked her again.

Abruptly, an arrow from a crossbow planted itself in his chest. He turned to ash, making the minions turn round and back away from Harmony.

Buffy saluted with her crossbow. "Can't say she didn't warn him."

"And you didn't like the plan," Harmony muttered to Mort. "So, slayer, at last we meet."

"We've met, Harmony, you halfwit."

"I'm the halfwit? Um, excuse me, but look who's fallen into my-" she broke off as Peaches rushed forward, attacking Buffy with a large axe. The slayer ducked under his swing and staked him. As he turned to dust, she grabbed the axe and chopped off Brad's head.

"Trap," Harmony finished defeatedly.

"Harmony," Buffy countered, stepping towards her and the girl, "when you tried to be head cheerleader, you were bad. When you tried to chair the homecoming committee, you were really bad. But when you try to be bad ... you suck."

Mort, swerved behind her, and struck her. Buffy rolled out of the way and turned to face him. She dropped the axe and traded blows for awhile, until he caught her off guard and grabbed her by her neck. Taking advantage of the raised height, Buffy found the tacky item stole from the magic shop. She snatched it off the shelf and drove the horn into Mort's chest.

Wisely, Harmony chose to split. Buffy watched her leave, then stepped forward and untied the girl.

"Sorry, about that," she apologised to her. "I hope the sight of vampires didn't terrify you too much."

"No, actually they helped," the girl reveal. "My name's Elita," she added to Buffy. "And I was told you could help me."

"Why?" Buffy asked.

"I don't know."

 


"Are you sure about this?" Tara asked her companion as he surveyed his new purchase.

"Why wouldn't I be?" Spike asked.

"Well, aside from the fact that most magic shop owners in Sunnydale have the life expectancy of a Spinal Tap drummer ... and, have you ever run a store before?"

"Nah, but I'll soon learn the ropes. It'll give me focus. Increase my resources. And it'll prevent me from trampling all over Buffy and Angel bonking each other at all hours." He smiled at her. "Seriously, if I'm gonna follow in my sire's footsteps," he indicated the talisman he was wearing, "I need a life, like he has. One of my choosing. This is it, for now." He gestured around. "What do you think."

"Do we get discounts?" Tara asked, making him chuckle. "Of course. Now, we better get back to the Mansion, and find out who this Elita girl is."

The End.
To Be Continued In

Slaying in L.A.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Unlike usual episodes, this is a rewrite of two episodes; The Replacement from Btvs, and Happy Anniversary from Ats. I had to come up with something to put Buffy in L.A for a bit, and include Lorne saying something to Elita. We all know that she's my Dawn in my world, but the slayerettes don't, so the mystery is on. Also, I'm British, so I have little idea about the IRS across the pond, so assume dramatic license for that. And Doppelgangland never occurred in this world, so Willow never had an evil twin. Enjoy.


Slaying in L.A.

Who is Elita, what is she? Aside from lapsing into a quote from the Bard, after a week of searching, the Scoobies were at a loss when it came to answering these questions. Added to this, they had no idea why she was here, or why she needed Buffy's help. Every day since her rescue from Harmony and her minions they had researched said inquiries; the more linguistic members making their way through various volumes of Giles' occult collection; from the usual titles to the more obscure ones, and the newly available alternative collection from those on sale at the Magic Shop, which had been moved into the 'not for sale' category the moment Spike took possession of the establishment.

As for those not blessed with a gift for languages, they were going through those volumes that were in English, along with the more mundane aspects of their lives, such as scholastic studying and patrolling. That is, the slayer was patrolling, and her friends used the opportunity to accompany her when they found the research frustrating.

Which it was. Extremely so. Elita could give them no clue as to why she was here, other than her firm conviction that she needed the slayer's help, and after nearly seven days of fruitless searching, that belief was being met with an increasing amount of scepticism. This, in addition to the activity- or rather lack there of -on the hellmouth, had led to some members of the group becoming antsy.

Bringing us to the slayer. Buffy was finding the line between her desires to be normal and those more primitive ones belonging to her destiny becoming blurred. Added to her part in the research session, she also had her studies at Sunnydale UCA, and her own private research into the mysteries of the vampire slayer. A tough staking of said prey could usually be relied upon to relieve the frustrations, but aside from the occasional newly arisen vampire, there had been nothing that she could get her stake into. Literally. She also had the burden of the source of the Scoobies frustrations occupying one of the Mansion's guest bedrooms, therefore unlike her friends and mentors, she had no escape from Elita.

In short, all of these tasks were no good for her destiny driven abilities, which was finally noticed by her watcher on the eve of that seventh day.

"Buffy?" Giles repeated, his voice now reaching higher decibels in an effort to make himself heard.

His charge blinked and came back to the land of the living. "What? Oh, sorry, Giles, I'm little distracted."

Giles sighed and put away the weapon he had been holding. "No, you're a lot distracted," he corrected gently. "Ever since we found nothing on Elita. You're worried, aren't you?"

"Worried, frustrated, suspicious," Buffy shrugged. "You think of other such descriptions, and I'm sure to be it. I need to vent, Giles. And I'm getting desperate. Is there anything in the Slayer prophecies concerning demons wanting to kill me coming soon? I'm so antsy I'd even take an apocalypse right about now."

"Well, I don't have anything in that line," Giles apologised. He turned to where he had left his wallet and began to search through it. "However, I do have this." He produced the business card with a flourish.

"Caritas?" Buffy pronounced uncertainly. He nodded. "Lorne called me a few days ago, sounded rather anxious. He asked if I could send you over, but what with Elita, I thought we would be busy. Now however, you might as well check it out."

"I dunno," Buffy began hesitantly. "How can I leave you guys here?"

"Contrary to popular misconception we are capable of taking care of the hellmouth," Giles replied. "At least, for a weekend, if not more if it continues to be this....."

"Don't finish that sentence," Buffy interrupted. "It always decides to wake up the moment anyone alludes to that. But what if you discover whatever is up with Elita while I'm gone?"

"I think that's unlikely," Giles answered. "We checked the most important volumes first, we're down now to the last few. Besides, I did have one new avenue of information which we haven't investigated."

"Oh no," Buffy groaned, "I knew this trip sounded too good to be true. What's the catch?"

"Lorne is anagogic, remember? I thought you could take Elita with you and see if he can find out her reasons for needing your help."

"But what if she tries to kill me on the way?"

"Take Angel with you."

Buffy nodded, her eyes examining the business card. "All right, I'll warn Angel, and we'll leave tonight."

"I'll let the others know," Giles replied. His charge nodded and went to get her jacket, where she shoved the card into her wallet. She took out a picture from it, and handed it to him. "This is for Ellis."

"Why would Ellis want this?" Giles asked.

"So he doesn't forget his godparents while they're away," Buffy explained.

"Buffy, you'll only be gone for a few days."

"Hopefully, but visual memory is important during these early years. According to my psych studies, anyway." Buffy smiled at him and headed out, leaving Giles to return the grin in bemusement, before turning to lock up the training area.

 


"What are we doing tonight?"

Xander looked up from his mountain of paperwork to catch his girlfriend's bored expression. "Anya, in case you hadn't noticed, I'm doing the Bonze accounts. Unless you want to help me, you need to do that thing we call being quiet."

"Quiet?" Anya mocked. "How I am noisy, compared to the other source of sounds around here?"

In her defence, she did have a point. The thin walls which separated his bedroom from those of Willow's, Oz's and Cordelia's, seemed to be competing with each other in the Vibration Olympics. From Oz's came the sound of guitar strumming from the batch of latest recordings from Dingoes Ate My Baby rehearsal sessions. Willow was studying animal noises for one of course papers, and Cordelia was practising how to project her voice for drama class.

Xander admitted defeat with the silent action of laying down his ballpoint. "Anya, what do you want to do tonight?"

"Look for a new apartment for you," the former vengeance demon answered.

"A new apartment?" He echoed. "My accounts are enough of a puzzle to me as it is. You throw in a new apartment and my head is liable to explode."

"Come on, look at all the benefits. You'll have more space, be off-campus. Plus, peace. No one bothering us."

"Us? You have an apartment."

"I do, but mine is let by a sweet but very annoying old lady who doesn't think a girl my age can have guys over," Anya uttered a sigh of frustration. "At least let's look. I'll do your finances for you."

"You can do accounting?" Xander queried sceptically.

"There's a lot you don't know about me, Xander Harris."

"So I'm discovering. All right," he rose up from his seat, and gestured to the chair. "Do your worst."

 


"At last! I was beginning to think Rupert had forgotten."

The new arrivals determinedly transferred their curious gazes from their surroundings to the demon whose call for help had brought them here. Lorne moved from behind his bar area, gesturing them to one of the empty tables.

"What is this place?" Buffy asked as her gaze switched from their host to their surroundings once more.

"Oh, Rupert didn't tell you? This is Caritas. You know, from the Latin?"

Buffy turned her blank look to her soulmate, who could be relied on to understand such a language. "It means charity, love, affection. Basically peace."

"Precisely, Angelcakes. This is a safe haven for demons and humans alike."

The slayer regarded him sceptically. "A Karaoke bar?"

"You'd be surprised. Anyway, no weapons, no killing or maiming of any kind is allowed here. There's a mystical protection barrier on the place. They sing or drink, and some who want me to, let their souls be read to request guidance. Wanna try it out?" He gestured at the Stage.

"Oh no," Buffy shrunk away. "Tone deaf. So, what did you call us here for?"

"What's today? Thursday? Tomorrow night - the world's going to end. I thought you might want to know."

Now it was Angel's turn to be sceptical. "So the world's gonna end."

"It's kind of a funny story. I'm at the club last night. Fairly typical Wednesday crowd. A Torto demon and his parasite were murdering the Everly Brothers, but that's nothing compared to what Elian had done to my sea-breeze! Oh. The man is such a moron. You have no idea how I'm suffering since Ramone left."

"Oh, I have an idea," Buffy interrupted. "Can you just get to the point already?"

"Yes, I can, if you'd let me get a word in edgewise. So this guy I've never seen before - gets up to sing. Usually I love it. You know, they sing, I read their futures, their auras, I see into their souls..."

"So this guy..." Angel echoed, trying to get their host to stay on topic.

"The thing that was remarkable about him was there was absolutely nothing remarkable about him. Just your average Joe about to mangle a tune and bore me with some bland vision of his bland future. But when he started singing - man, he knocked me out!"

"He was good?" Buffy asked.

"No, he knocked me out. When I came to he was gone."

"He didn't wait to hear what you saw on him?"

"Nope."

"So what knocked you out?"

"I looked into this guy and I saw - he has no future after ten o'clock tomorrow night - and neither does anybody else."

"Why didn't you tell Giles about this over the phone?" Buffy asked incredulously.

"I didn't want to worry you. Besides, I could hear Rupert's concern over the phone. And he didn't even have to sing. Have you brought her, by the way?"

"Yeah, and we're still mystified."

"Well, relax. As soon as you take care of this apocalypse, I'll have her sing for me. I'll solve her trouble in no time."

"So why did this guy leave the club before you had a chance to tell him what you saw?" Angel asked.

"People get scared. They come in for a reading, then they don't wanna know. Especially when the psychic faints."

"Maybe he's just a guy who likes to sing Karaoke. Maybe he doesn't know anything about you," Buffy pointed out.

Lorne nodded. "That'd make more sense. So what we should do is to start with the other local Karaoke bars, see if we can get a lead on him."

As Lorne leapt up from his chair, Buffy turned to Angel. "Do you think we need the others for this?"

"Preventing an apocalypse?" Angel queried. "With all the slayer research you've been doing lately, I think we have enough knowledge between us to prevent the end of the earth. Besides, they're protecting the Hellmouth for you."

"You're right," Buffy agreed. "Who knows what trouble might occur in my absence."

 


"Ohh, I like this hall!"

"Hey, we're just lookin'. Rent's way high, so don't get your hopes all carbonated."

"But you have references," Anya protested.

"No, I have Albert, which is me doing an important voice. 'Xander Harris? An excellent tenant. And a very nice-looking fellow.'"

They arrived at the opened apartment door, and walked inside. Anya glanced around the open plan living kitchen dining area once, and turned to him beaming. "I want it. Pay anything."

"Xander Harris?" Another woman asked. Xander turned to the Realtor. "Hey." They shook hands. "I brought my friend."

The Realtor regarded Anya with an uncertain gaze. "I see."

"She wouldn't always be around," Xander uttered hurriedly, thankful Anya was occupied in examining the apartment rather than hearing this conversation.

"Phone and electricity are hooked up. There's a private balcony, ceiling fan, closet space. And the bedroom is behind that door. I brought an application for you to fill out."

"An application? I can't just ... tell you my references? Because there's Albert."

"We run your credit check based on the application."

"Oh! Credit check." Xander laughed nervously. "Little check on the credit. See how credible my checks are."

"And we'll be asking for first, last, security, and a small cleaning deposit. The total's at the bottom of the sheet there."

Xander glanced at the appointed place, and with difficulty managed to keep his mouth from dropping. The Bronze brought in a comfortable income, but most of it was eaten away by constant repairs which were undertaken after whatever demon of the week decided to take over the place. Added to this was his installments on Cordelia's college education, which she didn't know he was still paying off. And despite Anya's marvellous job with the accounts the night before, he didn't think he could afford this.

Anya meanwhile, had come to join them. She glanced briefly at the application, then turned to the Realtor. "He'll take it. Xander, go get the furniture, I'll wait here. He's been living with his college friends on Campus. The walls there are too thin to do anything in privacy."

Xander chuckled nervously again. "Anya, can we talk quietly over there? Excuse us." He led her over to the living area. "Listen, I'm glad you managed to sort out the finances before the IRS got hold of them, but I don't think I can afford this."

"So when I wanna visit you, I have to be in that awful campus co-habitive collective?"

"Not forever. Just until things come together."

"Which is when, Xander? 'Cause right now, things are looking pretty untogether, and you can't expect me just to wait around for-"

Xander tried to her quell her rising tone. "Quiet, please. Anya, what is this? What's going on with you?"

"What's going on with me is I'm tired ....... and I don't really feel like taking a tour of beautiful things I can't have. "

She walked out, leaving Xander under the suspicious gaze of the Realtor. Taking a page from his ex-girlfriend, Xander displayed an acting smile of confidence. "I guess I'll just start on that application. I think you'll like it. I've been told I have lovely penmanship."

 


Across town, Spike looked up from his unpacking, to greet the person who had entered his new premises. "Can't you read, Mister? We're CLOSED. Oh, hey, Tara luv." He rose to his feet and brushed the dust away from his clothes. "What can I do for you?"

Tara glanced around nervously. "I er, thought you might need some help."

"That I do," He agreed coming across to take her hand. "There's so many unidentifiable objects around here that I'll be lucky if I don't curse my hands off at the wrist."

He turned to lead her further into the room, only to be confronted by a demon.

"The slayer is not here." The demon declared, as he took in the shop.

"Got that right, mate," Spike returned, letting go of Tara's hand to take the demon on. He glanced around for a weapon, before grabbing a hefty looking wooden statue.

"That is a fertility god," the demon informed him. "Feeble man, you are not going to distract me-"

"I'm not a man," Spike interrupted before hitting the demon with the statue.

Nothing happened. The demon grabbed Spike's hand and tossed him into a pile of boxes. "You are not the slayer. You do not concern me."

He swept towards the door. Tara backed away from his exit in favour of checking Spike over. She took her mobile out of her pocket. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, luv, not a scratch." Spike sat up. "You better call the gang in. Buffy won't get back here in time to deal with whoever that was."

A few minutes later and the whole of the Scooby gang minus its chosen champions had assembled in the shop.

"So you bought the magic shop and you were attacked before it opened," Xander commented. "Who's up for a swingin' chorus of the 'We told you so' symphony?"

"Toth," Giles murmured.

"He called you a Toth?" Cordelia asked Spike, who turned a puzzled glance from Giles to her, then back again.

"No, Toth is the name of the demon," Giles explained, resting the book he was studying in his arms. "Ancient demon. Very strong. Last survivor of the Tothric clan. It also says that for a demon he's unusually sophisticated."

"Sophisticated. So we should discuss men's fashions with him before we chop his head off?" Cordelia remarked sarcastically.

"They're referring to the fact that he does not fight bare-handed. He uses tools, devices. Oh, he's also supposed to be very focused. And since he mentioned the slayer, I think we know what the focus is. There's no mention of the types of places he might frequent, but...."

"I think I know where," Tara remarked.

 


"The city dump. Where smells go to relax and be themselves," Cordelia remarked as the Scoobies arrived at their destination.

"Watch out!" Xander cried as out of nowhere the demon appeared. He raised his weapon and fired a strange beam in the direction of Anya. Xander jumped in front of her, getting caught into the crossfire.

The Scoobies rushed over. "Hey, you okay?" Giles asked as they helped him up. "Easy, easy."

"I'm okay," Xander answered. His best friend glanced around them. "he's gone. He disappeared."

"That had to hurt," Doyle remarked sympathetically.

"Yeah, yeah," Xander agreed.

"Take it slowly," Giles urged as they walked out into the streets.

Behind them, the pile of garbage that Xander had risen from shifted, to reveal another Xander Harris.

 


Morning came and he arose. "Anya ... you trying to use the hot plate again?" Opening his eyes, Xander realised where he was. "Uh-oh."

Rapidly he got up from the trash and made his way from the rubbish site to the university campus area reserved for student housing. He glanced into the window of his ground floor bedroom. "Oh my god!"

Inside, oblivious, another Xander continued to get dressed. Outside, Xander continued to stare. "What? No way! Who is ... me?" Hurriedly he back away. "What am I doing in there? Buffy. Need Buffy." Rapidly he checked his pockets, only to see that the other Xander had his- or was it their -cellphone. "Damn."

He made his way over to the nearest payphone. His pockets also revealed little money, but he tried a quarter anyway. When nothing happened, he settled for calling the operator. "No, it ate my quarter. Uh-huh. But see, I'm sort of having this aggressively bad day. Ooh! I found a quarter! I found a quarter! ... Well, ma'am, for me it is worth getting excited about." He hung up and dialled Buffy's cell.

"Come on," he uttered as the ringing began. He glanced around, only to see the other Xander, looking suave and smart, walking passed him. Hurriedly he put the receiver down and followed.

 


"Who was it?" Angel asked his girl. "They hung up," Buffy replied as she put her phone away. They resumed their following of Lorne into yet another Karaoke bar.

"Nice," Buffy muttered as she gazed at the dingy surroundings.

"Hmm, it's not that bad," Lorne argued. "Nothing a couple bottles of Lysol can't cure. Interesting choice. Too bad about the cuisine art tomorrow. You know, if we stop the world from ending tomorrow the scar won't even be that noticeable." He paused, catching their glances of mingling boredom and frustration. "Sorry. Occupational hazard."

"Is he here?" Angel asked. "Nope." Lorne reluctantly admitted.

Buffy dropped herself on the nearest chair. "Seventeen Karaoke bars. You know, I need to lie down and scrub out the inside of my head."

"Well, maybe we're wrong. Sniffing a cold trail," Lorne argued. He turned to meet the curious gaze of the bartender. "We don't get your kind much."

"Excuse me?" Lorne queried.

"Demons. We get a couple now and then but they're usually vampires passing for human."

Lorne smiled. "Well, I never pass on anything, mister, especially when it comes with a little umbrella in the glass. You worked here long?"

"Eleven years now. It used to be a regular bar. But then they put in one of these Karaoke machines. Thought it would bring in the customers. It drove most of them away. We got a few steadies that make up for it."

"Steadies?" Buffy echoed. The bartender nodded. "A lot of students. They're grad students," he added, making Lorne nod slowly in recollection. "Fits the descrip."

"We're looking for a guy, early twenties, medium build, maybe one of you steadies." Angel explained. "Sings sad songs like 'All By Myself.'"

"Sounds like the kid. I don't know his name but he comes in every few weeks. Runs with the whole broken heart songbook. First time I thought somebody died. But after a couple of weeks I figured he was just one of those manic depressants."

"Hey, Goliath, you got a good picture of this grad student in your head? Well, how about singing a few bars of 'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow,' hmm?"

The bartender glanced at Angel and Buffy. "Oh, you know, he's a demon," the former shrugged. "You better do what he says or he might talk your ears off."

"For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow..."

Lorne nodded. "Yeah, it's him. It's our boy. Fabulous tone by the way, really nice vibrato. And you keep plugging away on that novel, F. Scott. Art is its own reward. Now this grad student, which university would that be?"

 


At the university in question, a student returned to his white board of scientific calculations to discover a sense which he didn't realise he had written the night before. But then he had been nursing the drunken grief-stricken consequences brought on by eavesdropping on his girlfriend and her best friend's conversation about how best to dump him. Sighing he took out the photo of them which he always carried around in his wallet.

"So I'll give her the kind of love that lasts," he mused, glancing from the picture to the mercury in front of him, suspended seemingly by nothing but time.

And down below the demons who had corrected his math, grinned as they realised their time was coming.

 


"I better stick to the shadows and think of something to say should we happen upon a comely co-ed," Lorne muttered as they entered the campus administrative building.

"Tell her you're the new school mascot," Angel remarked. Buffy handed him a book before following her boyfriend. "Use this as cover. Wait here."

They returned with a pile of books some ten minutes later. "Student yearbook/faculty publications going back past five years," Buffy informed him as they grabbed an empty table. "Lets see if we can't find our little madman bent on destroying the universe."

Another few minutes of page flicking passed before they struck lucky.

"Oh, got him," Lorne announced, before showing them the photo. "He's a physicist - and a pretty good one according to this."

"I'll find out where the lab is," Angel said, taking the book back to the information desk. Buffy watched him go and then turned to Lorne. "I ought to call Willow, she's more science orientated than us."

"Honey, you and tall, dark and broody are the experts in world ending. I'd say you two can take care of this together. Beside, we don't have two hours to spare."

"Got the directions," Angel announced as he returned. "It's about a quarter of a mile away. Guy has his own lab apparently."

"Let's go," Buffy decided as she leapt from her chair. Suddenly she turned around to catch the axe which was headed for her back.

Lorne rose from his chair and cried out something unintelligible to the demon, while Buffy and Angel tried to fight him and the rest of his kind who had appeared as if from nowhere behind them. The demons threw both of them to the ground before running off.

"What did you say to it?" Angel asked as he and Buffy rose from the floor.

"I said we come in peace. I don't think he believed me."

"And what did he say to me?" Buffy asked.

"He said 'you shall not stop the golden child, the one for whom we have waited.' Lubber demons, they have a way with words."

"What's a Lubber demon?" Angel asked.

"Fanatical sect, awaiting a messiah who will usher in the end of all human life. A lot of your demons don't yak about it in mixed company, but it is a pretty popular theology in the underworld."

"So this mad scientist has these demons worshipping and protecting him while he blows up the planet... or what?" Buffy looked at Lorne. "What's he gonna do?"

"Lets get to his lab pronto and find out. It's pretty clear we're dealing with a criminal mastermind."

 


"Yes, everything seems to be in order here. You've passed, Mr Harris."

From outside the window of the Bronze, the scruffy Xander gazed at his more suave doppelganger with disbelief. He had watched him turn every disaster which he had foreseen happening today into pure success. "Passed? But I ... I mean, he didn't ... Doesn't he see the shiny thing?" His footing slipped just then, causing him to fall back to the asphalt below his viewpoint.

"Congratulations, Harris," the guy from the IRS continued inside the nightclub. "You and your girl should go out and celebrate."

"I already have an idea how," the doppelganger replied.

When Xander rose to his feet, he saw the IRS man leaving, then his doppelganger closing the nightclub back up before heading out too. Once more he followed.

They arrived at the apartment which Xander felt impossible to get. To his surprise, he saw the Realtor welcome his doppelganger into the apartment.
"I was going to call you, Mr. Harris, let you know your credit checked out fine, but ... I really didn't think you'd be back," she said. "I'm sure you'll like the building...... I hope you'll be happy here, Mr. Harris. We're certainly happy to have you."

"Thank you," the doppelganger said, his hand fiddling with the shiny thing which Xander had seen before. He watched the Realtor leave, then his doppelganger as he used his cellphone to call someone. Unfortunately, he couldn't make out the gist of this conversation. He waited for him to exit the apartment, then struck him.

His doppelganger threw him off, then punched him in the face. "I won't let you do this! You can't do this to me!" Xander cried at him, clutching his face.

His doppelganger could only stare at him. Then he ran off, leaving Xander to gingerly get up from the floor, muttering. "Oh, man, I need Scooby help."

 


"Hey, we're looking for Gene Rainy?"

The lab technician looked up from surveying the empty lab to glance at the new arrivals. "So am I. Somebody took his equipment."

"What equipment?" Buffy asked.

"Particle accelerators, propulsion batteries...." he trailed off as he caught sight of Lorne. "What's that?"

Angel shrugged. "Don't worry. It's just the new school mascot."

"For the Buccaneers?" The Lab Tech looked at him sceptically.

"Not your school, silly," Buffy replied hurriedly. "Do you know what Gene Rainy was working on?"

"Ah. Time paradox. Accelerate specific particles out of our continuum into their own excised universe."

"Come again?" Angel asked.

"Stopping time," Lorne answered.

"Which is impossible by the way," the lab tech hastened to add. "No one can do the math. Does anybody listen to me? No. He gets the grants, I get carpet mould."

"Alright. Lets say he could do it. Lets say he could stop time. How would it work?" Buffy asked.

"Well, you know, according to his speculations you focus the accelerators on a specific point, and if you can generate the correct velocity, whatever is in that field would just be removed from our reality."

"What happens to it?" Lorne asked.

"Nothing. In the absolute sense of that word. Whatever is in the field would stand still forever in its own private universe."

"Say, someone, just for fun, were to crank this into overdrive."

"If the field were improperly contained it would spill out. Keep growing, stop everything - kind of wiggy, huh?"

Buffy nodded in agreement, trying to control her rising sense of impending doom. "Who has the keys to this place?"

"Only Gene. Even the maintenance guys can only come in when he's here."

"No forced entry," Angel announced, looking up from his quiet study of the door.

"Why would Gene take his own equipment?" The Lab Tech queried.

"The question is where would Gene take his own equipment," Buffy remarked.

Meanwhile, at his apartment, Gene put the finishing touches to his romantic dinner for himself and his girlfriend. Candles lit, he checked his watch with satisfaction.

Almost time.

 




Two hours away, Xander had found his new source of help. "Don't be scared, Will. Just listen. It's me, Xander. And I can prove it."

Confused, Willow sat on her bed. "Um ... okay."

"Let's see. Stuff only you and me know. Okay! On my seventh birthday ... I wanted a toy fire truck, and I didn't get it, and you were real nice about it, and then the house next door burnt down, and then real fire trucks came, and for years I thought you set the fire for me. And if you did, you can tell me. Oh! Christmas, we watch Charlie Brown together, and I do the Snoopy dance." He began to do it.

Willow watched for a moment, then rose up and stopped him. "Xander ... stop dancing."

"Aha! You called me Xander!"

"Xander, shut up! Why wouldn't I think you were Xander? What's going on?"

"Okay. I woke up in the dump this morning."

"Xander, your bedroom isn't a dump."

"No. The dump. The city dump. I got hit last night, fall down boom, woke up this morning."

"Nuh uh," Willow objected. We walked you home last night, remember?"

"You walked? Will. Did I do anything weird? Did I wave any shiny things around?"

"Shiny things, what are you talking about?"

"Last night, that wasn't me. There's a double out there. Some ... thing has stolen my face, and it's going around pretending to be me, and it's hypnotising people. It even got to Giles and the others. It's over there right now and they have no idea." He sank down on to the floor, not noticing the damp of his rain-soaked clothes in despair. "It's a robot. It's an evil robot constructed from evil parts that look like me designed to do evil."

"Uh huh," Willow agreed. "Or it's Toth."

"Or, it's Toth," Xander repeated in the same sense. "A demon. A demon has taken my life from me, and he's living it better than I do."

"Well, we're working on it. There has to be a way to get to....... unhypnotise Giles and the others. I'll find a spell to snap them out of it."

"Right. Whatever."

"Xander, you have to help me figure this out, you know."

"But I never help. I get in trouble and Buffy saves me."

"That's not true! Sometimes we've all helped save you. And sometimes you're not in trouble."

"But this time it's even worse. This demon, he's like taking my life, and everyone's treating him ... Everyone's treating him like a grown-up! Will, I'm starting to feel like..."

"Like what?"

"Like ... he's doing everything better. He's smarter, and ... I don't know, maybe I should just let him have it. Take my life, please."

"Xander, no! You're just tired, and ... and all soggy. That's why it seems so hard, but you can't let him just take your whole existence."

"Why not? It's not like I was doing anything so great with it. When I get to the pearly gates I'm sure the guy is not gonna go, 'Hey, what a kick-ass comic book collection, come on in!' No, what have I got that's even worth........ Anya!" He suddenly realised.

"You think he's after her?" Willow asked.

"She won't know. He can just ... no. No way! No way. He can take anything, but he can't have her. I need her. He could be with her right now! Figure out a spell, something ... revealy. I gotta find her."

"Xander, you already knew he was taking over your life, and ... you didn't think about Anya till just now?" Willow queried in concern.

"Hey, wait till you have an evil twin. See how you handle it."

 


"You're lying. It's a trick," Anya uttered, as she surveyed the picnic basket at her feet, and the new apartment she loved which was their present surroundings.

"No. Trust me," doppelganger Xander answered.

"You really got this apartment?"

"I really did. And do you know why?"

"The ceiling fans? Very attractive."

"No. It's because I knew you wanted it. It's all for you." He moved closer to her. "Anya, you didn't see me today, did you? I mean, we didn't talk?"

"What do you mean? I just got your phone message, that's all."

"Good." He kissed her, then brought her down to sit on the blanket. "So... what happens next?" Anya asked him.

"Well, at some point we take off our clothes," he replied.

"I mean what happens next in our lives? When do we get a car? And a boat. No, wait, I - I don't mean a boat. I mean a puppy. Or a child. I have a list somewhere."

"What are you talking about?"

"Just ... we have to get going. I don't have time just to let these things happen."

"There's no hurry."

"Yes there is. There's a hurry, Xander. I'm dying. I may have as few as fifty years left."

"Fifty years? What is thi- Oh, wait a minute. This is about this." He pinched her skin.

"Ow! What about my skin?"

"It's over a year since you became human isn't? Maybe it's finally hitting you what being human means. You were gonna live for thousands of years. And now you're gonna age and die." He took a comforting hold of her hands. "That must be terrifying."

Anya shook her head. "You don't understand what it's like."

"Being suddenly human? I think I can get what that would be like. And we can get through it together."

"You can't make it any different. I'm going to get old. And you can't promise you'll be with me when I'm wrinkly and my teeth are artificial and stuck into my wrinkly mouth with an adhesive."

"No, I can't promise that. But it doesn't sound terrible. And that's saying something. But I promise you, Anya. Very soon you won't be thinking about getting older."

They kissed once more.

And then Xander burst through the door. "Get away from her!"

"Xander!" Anya cried, puzzled as she took in the 'intruder.'

 


"Okay. If I had a machine to stop time," Buffy remarked as Angel parked the car outside Gene Rainy's apartment building, "where would I put it?"

"Probably where the demons can guard it," Lorne answered, gesturing at the Lubber demons which surrounded said building.

Buffy and Angel glanced from their opponents to themselves, then back again, before launching themselves into the fight.

This time they were prepared for the demonic strength they were about to encounter, and dealt with those Lubbers posted outside the apartment block without too much trouble. Glancing through one of the windows, they saw another tapping away at a computer before the missing equipment from the grad student's lab. Together they dived through the window to land amongst the broken glass, before taking on this next target.

"Go for the power source!" Angel yelled to Buffy as she rolled up from the floor. He threw a punch at the demon, who suddenly froze in mid air.
Realising that the time freeze was already happening, Buffy ducked under the path of its trajectory, and dived for the electrical socket. With her all of her strength, she pulled the plug on the experiment.

Meanwhile upstairs, the girl turned to her companion. "Gene, we have to talk."

 


"Xander?" Anya cried, confused.

"Get out," the doppelganger uttered. "You don't belong here."

"Anya," Xander called out. "It's me." She made a move towards him, but the doppelganger stopped her. "It's a demon. He stole my face, he's trying to trick you. You know I'm me, right?"

"No!" Xander cried out.

Anya looked at them, and made her choice. "What is it?" She asked the doppelganger. "Make it go away."

 


Meanwhile, back at Oakpark Street, nine people jumped in surprise as the front door burst open.

"I swear, this time I know I had that locked," Giles remarked when he had recovered.

"Toth looks like Xander," Willow uttered as she closed the door.

"We already know," Oz answered. "We're on our way."

Wesley looked up from what he had been studying. "Wait a second, how did you know about this?"

"He came to me. Xander did. And he's in terrible shape, we need to help him."

"He came to us too," Cordelia remarked. Willow shook her head. "No. We each had a Xander. I mean ... you didn't have a Xander, you had a demon in a Xander suit."

"What makes you so sure that yours is the right one?" Doyle asked her.

"He knew stuff! He, he did the Snoopy dance. It was Xander, and he needs us."

"Oh, dear lord," Giles suddenly uttered, making Jenny look up. Oblivious, Cordelia looked at the others. "Our Xander, did he seem a little.... he seemed kind of forceful and confident. And that's not Xander."

"I said, 'Oh, dear lord.'" Giles looked at her. Cordelia shrugged. "You always say that."

"Well, it's always important! Neither Xander is a demon."

"Um ... is one of them a robot?" Willow asked.

"What? No. the weapon Toth used, it's called a ferula-gemina. It splits one person in half, distilling personality traits into two separate bodies. As near as I can tell, Toth was attempting to split the slayer into two different entities. One with all the qualities inherent in Buffy Summers, and the other one with everything that belongs to the slayer alone. And when it hit Xander, I think it separated him into his strongest points and his weakest."

"But which one's the real one?" Jenny asked.

"They're both real. They're both Xander. Neither one of them is evil. There's nothing in either of them that our Xander doesn't already possess."

Cordelia shrugged in confusion. "I still don't get the original plan. I mean, why do it? The slayer half would be like slayer concentrate, pretty unkillable."

"But the two halves can't exist without each other. Kill the weaker half, and the slayer half dies. The same goes for the Xanders. We lose one, we lose them both."

"We better get find them," Willow urged. "'Cause Xander looked desperate."

"What's the worst they could do?" Spike asked. "Joke each other to death?"

"You don't know Xander when he's desperate," Willow replied. "Trust me, something terrible is about to happen."

 




"He's the demon!" Xander protested. "Or possibly a robot. Look at me. Look in my eyes. Can't you see it's me?"

"I, I don't know!" Anya cried.

"Please! Look at him! Listen to him! He's all smooth! You have to know it's me!"

"Don't worry, Anya," his doppelganger uttered. "I'll get rid of this thing. I'm thinkin' this is gonna last about fifteen seconds."

Xander took a gun from his jacket and pointed it at his doppelganger. "I'm thinking less."

Anya caught sight of the gun and realised it was hers. She rushed forward. "No! Don't shoot him!" She pushed the gun to aim at the ceiling.

"Let go! I have to kill the demon-bot!" Xander cried. His doppelganger wrestled it away from the both of them. "Anya ... get out of the way."

Luckily for her, the cavalry arrived, in the form of the Scoobies bursting through the door. "Xander!" Willow cried out.

"It's all right. I have him." Doppelganger informed them.

"No! Gang! I'm me! Help me!"

"My gun! He's got my gun!" Anya cried, making Spike look at her. "You own a gun??"

"Xander ..." Willow began, "gun-holding Xander. Give me the gun."

Anya stared at them. "Which one's real?"

"You've been split in two," Willow answered, speaking to the scruffy version. "But you're both Xander. And you can't kill each other. Um, well, you could, but it would be really bad."

Xander stared at his doppelganger. "No way. He can't be me. He's all ... fancy."

"We can prove that you're both Xander," Wesley asserted, making Cordelia nod, before asking, "how?"

"Um...Well, there has to be a way," Giles murmured uncertainly.

"Ooh!" Cordelia uttered. "What number am I thinking of?"

"I don't think that's gonna do it," Oz remarked.

"Eleven and a half," answered both Xanders, making Cordelia smile. "Wrong. Oh! But see?"

Xander shook his head. "No. We're not the same. We're all different."

"No," Giles disagreed. "Different properties went into each of you, but you're both Xander."

"Different properties?" Anya uttered.

"What different properties?" The previous doppelganger asked.

"But he has a thingie!" Xander cried out. "In his pocket! A shiny disk that stuns and disorients!"

"What this?" His other half said, taking it out. "It's a nickel someone flattened on the railroad track. I found it on my way to the Bronze and I thought it was cool. It's not magic."

"No, I ..." Xander stopped as he examined it. "huh. It is kinda cool. Washington's still there, but he's all smushy. And he may be Jefferson."

"Okay, isn't anyone gonna tell me why there are two Xanders?" Anya asked.

Cordelia stepped forward. "I will on the way to Giles'. Let's go."

They turned to leave, but the door burst open again, to reveal Toth. "Where has the slayer gone?" He asked.

"L.A." Giles answered, while his eyes motioned towards the gun still lying on the floor. "About two hours in that direction."

The demon turned as expected, and Xander's smoother half picked up the gun, rearmed it, and fired at the demon.

Obligingly, Toth turned round and died, vanquished by bullets.

"Oh, yeah. That cleaning deposit's gone," the doppelganger remarked, causing Xander to turn to him with a gasp. "I was thinking the same thing! Hey, do you suppose we're both Xander?"

 


"I can't believe this."

Girlfriend, now ex, had left the apartment. Buffy, Angel and Lorne sat with the cause of their concerns, having just explained and shown him the remains of his home made physics experiment in his study.

"Listen, I am - really, really sorry. I had no idea I was putting the whole world in jeopardy or - or there were all these demons. - Although the idea of aliens among us is consistent with Murdoch's multi-verse. I just - I just didn't want her to leave."

Lorne patted his shoulder. "Gene, the wheel keeps turning. You can't stop it. Sometimes things get worse, sometimes they get better."

"I want the wheel to stop - which probably explains the whole time in a box disaster. I can't emphasise enough how sorry I am about that."

"It just don't work, Gene. It's like a song. Now, I can hold a note for a long time. Actually I can hold a note forever. But eventually that's just noise. It's the change we're listening for. The note coming after, and the one after that. That's what makes it music."

"I guess. You guys like beer?"

"Unfortunately, we can't stay," Buffy began, rising from her seat. "Me and Angel anyway. We have a hellmouth to take care of."

"Hellmouth?" Gene echoed curiously, making Buffy shake her head. "Trust me, you don't want to know."

"I'm glad you guys came by," Gene said as he saw them to the door. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Angel replied before they walked away.

"Phew!" Buffy remarked as the door closed and they headed downstairs. "How we're gonna explain this to Elita, I don't know. Let alone the Scoobies."

Angel nodded. "Wonder what the guys are doing right now," he mused.

"Whatever it is, it can't have been as bad as this," Buffy remarked, before they left the apartment building.

 


"Look and admire, ladies," Xander, now dressed in the same colour shirt and pants as his other half, uttered.

They were at the Magic Box, where, despite Spike's annoyance, Giles and Wesley were drawing out the ritual marks for rejoining the Xanders' on the floor of the shop.

"Look, there's a scar there," Cordelia uttered, pointing at one Xander forehead. "And there's the same one right there."

"It's all double," Willow agreed. "This zit, and this... kinda funny dippy thing. And this weird little hair that grows in the wrong way."

"So you Xanders really do have all the same memories, all the same ... " Anya looked downward. "Physical attributes?"

"We're completely identical," Smooth Xander uttered. His other half nodded. "Yeah, we checked out some stuff in the car on the way over. Fingerprints!"

Anya turned to the others. "Well, maybe we shouldn't do this reintegration thing right away. See, I can take the boys home, and ... we can all have sex together, and ... you know, just slap 'em back together in the morning."

Nine people looked at her appalled. "She's joking," one Xander uttered. The other shook his head. "No she's not! She entirely wants to have sex with us together. Which is ... wrong, and, and it would be very confusing."

Giles got up from the floor. "We just need to light the candles. Also, we should continue to pretend we heard none of the disturbing sex talk."

"Check. Candles and pretence," Wesley agreed.

"It's not like it'd be cheating," Anya persisted. "They're both Xander."

"We're ready," Tara remarked. "We should do it now."

"What'll we do if this doesn't work?" Anya asked her. The Xanders turned to one another and quoted the same line. "Kill us both, Spock!"

"They're kinda the same now," Cordelia pointed out. Giles nodded. "Yes, he's clearly a bad influence on himself."

"Hey, summon the goddess. Chant the chant. Let's do it," a Xander decided

"Actually, it's not that hard," Willow remarked. "Your natural state is to be together. Toth's spell is doing all the work of keeping you apart. I just have to break it. So you two stand right here. Side by side. We don't want you to end up with two fronts, now do we?"

"Are you sure you know how to do this?" One Xander asked her. Willow nodded, exhaling. "Here we go. Brace yourselves." She paused and stretched out her hands. "Let the spell be ended."

"You gotta be kidding," Xander murmured. "'Let the spell be ended,' that's not gonna work." He opened his eyes to see only himself. "Oh!"

 


"I still can't believe it. You guys had to deal with the end of the world?"

Buffy nodded at Cordelia. "And all you got were two Xanders and a demon. Damn."

"You're telling me," Cordelia agreed.

Across the room Oz picked up another box, and halted in his move to the truck outside to talk his now ex living mate. "Getting nostalgic?"

Xander shrugged. "I don't know. At first it's just a place, then you start to make memories, and ... then you're like; Oh, right there, that's where I got my heart all ripped out. No offence, but I really hate this place. " He walked over to his girlfriend with a box.

Anya looked up eagerly. "Presents?"

"Not unless you want my collection of Babylon 5 commemorative plates. Which you cannot have. I just thought you could help carry a little."

"Me?" Anya pouted. "Buffy has super strength. Why don't we just load her up like one of those little horses?"

"Anya. Please," her boyfriend uttered, making her relent. "Fine. I'm just your slave."

Xander grinned. "Now, that has possibilities," he murmured. "And I still have that costume from Return of the Jedi." He picked up another box and followed his girl.

"So," Giles remarked to Buffy, "did you manage to get Lorne to read Elita?"

"No," Buffy replied, "she wouldn't and he agreed not to try. She looked so scared, I didn't have the heart to insist. We'll just have to find another way."

Elita watched them all, her thoughts focused on what Buffy had just said. It was true she had been scared of singing and that demon reading her, but the rest wasn't. For even without the song, Lorne had read her soul. And he had only replied with cryptic.

'Watch out, honey,' he had said. ''Cause your road is a long and winding one.' Put together with his look of sympathy, Elita dreaded that journey.

Particularly, what lay at the end of her destination.

The End.
To Be Continued In.

Visions.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: A completely original story this time, but in keeping with the main arch of the series, as I focus on one of my neglected characters. I thought it only right that I should pay some attention to them, otherwise what would be the point of keeping them in the series? It does borrow a few lines from the original fourth episode,- as well as some from Ats; I Will Remember You -but ignores the plot completely. Enjoy.


Visions.

It wouldn't come. No matter how hard he tried, nothing happened. Silently he glanced at the clock, noted the lateness of the hour, and sighed, giving up the attempt for what little was left of the night. As his eyes took the journey from the timepiece back to their more immediate surroundings, the pupils encountered their owner's usual follow through for before falling asleep. Hands moved habitually towards the desired the object, until the mind caught up with what they were doing, and halted the motion altogether.

Doyle brought the wayward hands up to his eyes and with another sigh sank into the confines of his sofa. He considered the facts. One- another week gone and they had found nothing out about Elita. Two- Despite Elita's certainty that the slayer was meant to help her, every authority on the slayer offered nothing which referred to such an event. And three- he had not had a vision since the summer.

From the moment Elita had come to them; or rather, was rescued from Harmony and her minions by Buffy, Doyle had been expecting to receive a vision about her. He had been sent to Sunnydale to help the slayer, so his ability to see the future should have given him the reason why Elita had been sent to them. Or why she was trying to trick them. But he had received nothing. Not even a hint.

He had received a vision about Tara when she was in trouble. He had received visions about the Initiative. He hadn't received visions about the first slayer invading dreams, but then that was Buffy's field of expertise, not his. Why hadn't had a vision about Elita?

Sighing in exasperation, Doyle risked removing his hands from his eyes to glance at the clock on the wall. Five minutes had passed since his last check, but due to his frustration time seemed to be as slow as his visions.

Determinedly, he picked up the bottle of whiskey and rose from the sofa, putting the temptation away in a locked cupboard. Getting drunk right now would hardly help matters. He only resorted to that when he was alone. Since arriving in Sunnydale, he could no longer claim that excuse.

Turning away from the cupboard, Doyle resumed his previous seat. He took his mobile out of his trouser pocket and turned the device on. Pressing the speed-dial he put it to his ear and waited for the other line to pick up.

"You're lucky I don't need beauty sleep," was the greeting he received after the end of the dial tone. Descrying the underlying affection in the tone, Doyle smiled as he spoke into the receiver.

"Hey 'delia."

"Right back at ya," the former cheerleader replied, all sarcasm gone. "Is this call the same reason as the night before? And the night before that?"

"'fraid so."

"You miss the sound of my voice that much?" She questioned, making him laugh.

"That too," he replied.

"Listen, you've gotta stop fretting over non-vision thing," Cordelia told him seriously. "It's probably half the reason you haven't received any message from the PTB about her."

"And the other half?"

"That she's tricking us due to some nefarious plan to kill the slayer or the end of the world as we know it," she answered.

"Way to make me feel happier, darling," Doyle attempted to joke back.

She saw through it. "It's the way it is. She's either good, or evil. And considering the lack of stuff we've found about her, most of us Scoobies are leaning towards the evil category at the moment. Including Buffy."

"Even though she's staying at the Mansion?" Doyle queried.

"Well, she doesn't say it, but you know Buffy. If someone is potentially dangerous, she'd rather have them under her roof than anyone else's. I think the only reason that she hasn't come straight out with it, is because it would let Elita know we're on to her. If we should be that is."

"Maybe you're right," Doyle conceded. "All Elita problems aside though, when was the last time I received a vision?"

There was silence from the other end of the line while his girlfriend thought about this. "During the summer," she replied at last. "that army of Nazi demons we had to deal with. The Scourge."

"Right," Doyle agreed. "Now, why didn't I receive anything about Toth? Or Dracula for that matter?"

"Okay, you've got me there," Cordelia reluctantly agreed. "What do you want to do about it?"

"I'm not sure. Usually I'm pleased not to have the mind-numbing visions, but since I joined you lot....." Doyle sighed. "I can only think of two things; Inducing them with a spell or drugs."

"And if that doesn't work?"

"I don't know," Doyle replied.

"Okay. So, first thing tomorrow morning, we'll consult Jenny about a vision inducing spell," Cordelia decided. "And if that doesn't work, we'll take it from there. Agreed?"

"Agreed," Doyle affirmed.

"Good. Now, go and get some sleep."

"Yes ma'am," Doyle acknowledged, making her laugh. "Goodnight, 'delia."

"Goodnight. See you tomorrow morning."

 


"You can't possibly be arguing that Marat didn't betray the French Revolutionaries. This was the guy who declared the rights of man, and then the next thing you know he's ... killing Girondins like it's going out of style."

Buffy shook her head. "Will, you're totally missing my point. Now, I agree that Marat wasn't a real martyr, but the death in the tub ... the neck wound, all that blood, just a little more fang-y than knife-y. I mean, Charlotte Corday wasn't a real martyr either, but..."

"Buffy!" Willow cried as she suddenly came to a halt in the middle of the campus corridor that next morning.

"What?" Her best friend asked her, as she and Tara stopped walking too.

Willow ginned. "Listen to us! We-we're arguing! We're having a debate about a college lecture! I have dreamt of this day since ... forever! You are turning into quite the student. Should I be watching my occipital lobe?"

The slayer's smile changed into a frown. "Your what?"

"Occipital. The lobe in the back of your brain. You know, like, 'should I be watching my back?' But, you know, the ... back of your brain."

"Apparently not," Buffy replied. "Don't worry, Will, you still wear the smarty-pants in the family."

"I don't know," Willow remarked. "You've been studying ... really a lot."

"I'm trying," Buffy confessed. "But they're really piling on the reading, and Giles fills any free time I have with extra training ... I'm starting to think this working hard is hard work."

"Isn't it crazy like that?" Willow sympathised.

"I thought it was gonna be like in the movies. You know, inspirational music ... a montage, me sharpening my pencils, me reading, writing, falling asleep on a big pile of books with my glasses all crooked, 'cause in my montage I have glasses. But real life is slow, and it's starting to hurt my occipital lobe."

"Aw. Poor Buffy's brain," Willow said, patting her on the head.

"Thanks, I think," the chosen one returned. "Actually, I'm heading to training now. Do you two wanna come with?"

Tara nodded, while Willow replied, "I'm in. Don't we need to swing by the Professors' rooms first?"

"No, Angel has class, Giles already left, and Doyle and Jenny have this morning off. What about Oz? Isn't he free?"

Willow shook her head. "No, extra Dingoes practise session. Just us three then. But Maybe we can argue some more about the French Revolution. Hey! Wasn't that Robespierre the coolest?"

"Robespierre?" Buffy looked at her. "You're kidding me, right?"

"I'm just getting it going," Willow replied as they started walking again.

 


"Oh! Who put the monkey heads near the Styx water? Do we want to pick exploded monkey out of our hair?"

"Anya, will you stop messing with the layout already?" Spike returned as she glared at him.

"I wouldn't be messing around with it if you laid out things properly in the first place!" Anya returned as she moved the monkeys heads to another shelf.

"I knew I shouldn't have brought this bloody place. It's become another Scooby headquarters," Spike muttered as he went to answer the door.

"Trick or treat!" Buffy joked at him.

"Hello you three, come on in," Spike replied, standing aside to let them pass.

"Thank you, kind proprietor," Willow added as they stepped over the threshold. Her eyes cast an awed gaze around the shop. "Wow, this place looks great. Oh, I feel like a witch in a magic shop." She paused to pick up a jar from a nearby table. "Ooh. Are these real newt eyes?"

"Nah, too ... rich for my blood," Spike said. "Giles got them from a contact he knew."

The watcher nodded in agreement before explaining. "No, those are salamander eyes, it's the cataracts which give them their newt-like appearance. They're really equally effective, though, it's just a matter of overcoming snobberies."

"I'm telling you, Giles," Xander began, "you gotta set up a blind taste test and prove once and for all that generic amphibian eyeballs are just as good."

"I don't know," Willow remarked. "If you ask me, the newt name still means something."

"You ready to train?" Giles asked Buffy.

"You betcha," she replied, setting down her books. Together they headed off into the back of the building.

Spike watched them go then went to join Tara at the larger table situated on the other of the shop floor from the cash register. "Penny for ya thoughts?"

"I just keep thinking how cool it would be, if we got a real psychic to sit up here and read fortunes and stuff."

"You should do it, luv," Spike decided.

Tara shook her head. "Not me. But, but I'd love to, to watch and learn. From someone who's really good, you know?"

"You're really good," Spike persisted. "I've seen you with that set of yours during the summer. You handle them like any pro-poker player handles cards. I'll prove it," he paused holding out his hands. "Here, do mine."

Tara obliged, taking hold of them with her own. "Hmm," she said after a moment.

"What do you see?" Spike asked her.

"Spike hands," Tara replied, smiling.

He smiled too, and the realms of the world faded away from their occipital lobes, until the bell above the door rang again, causing them to glance at the new arrivals.

"I agree with you that it is something to be concerned about," Jenny Calendar-Giles was saying as she came in, Cordelia ahead of her to keep the door open for the pushchair carrying Ellis, Doyle behind them. "But I don't think you should be looking to induce them either. Spells for that are very dangerous, not to mention drugs."

"I wasn't thinking dope or anything like that," Doyle replied as the door closed behind him. "Those don't affect Brackens anyway. I was thinking more of the mandrake or nightshade variety."

"Well, you've come to the right place for those," Wesley remarked as he put down the book he was studying. "Having trouble with your visions?"

"How did you know?" Doyle asked him.

Wesley shrugged. "Simple deduction via observation of the eyes. You have a red rims around them, suggesting........"

"Okay, Sherlock, do you know where these are?" Cordelia interrupted, her sarcasm making him drop his previously assured tone.

"He should do," Spike said decidedly as he came towards them. "Spends more time here than he does at the firm, don't ya?"

"It's been a quiet month," Wesley protested. "And what with Elita on the scene, I thought I'd best serve the group by assisting Giles with the search through the books."

"Fourth bookshelf, second shelf from the top," Spike directed, before walking over to the location in question, wrenching a potion bottle from Anya's hand's on the way.

"Hey!" The former vengeance demon replied. "Do you know how much they cost?"

"Yes I do!" Spike returned. "And if you move anything else, you're paying for a years supply of them."

"Not too much," Jenny advised as Cordelia carefully took the required jars down from the shelf. "An overdose can cause madness."

"Speaking of madness, has anyone seen today's paper?" Wesley asked, before brandishing his copy from his pocket. "There's been quite a few people admitted to the hospital for such symptoms during this month."

"I saw it," Tara replied, laying down the tarot cards. "The poor people. I didn't realise it was still so common."

"It isn't," Wesley informed them, "not at this rate, anyway."

"Something to inform Buffy about?" Willow asked, as she studied the article in the former watcher's hand.

"It could be supernatural," Wesley agreed. "But I was going to do some more research before asking her. She's got enough on her plate anyway."

"She has," Willow agreed. "It was nice of you to offer that room in the back as a training room, Spike."

"Common sense," the chipped vampire returned as he adjusted a item nearby. "The Mansion hasn't got any space, nor have Giles and Jenny. Beside, the minute I signed the lease, you guys started hanging out here."

"You like us really, Spike." Willow remarked.

"Some of you, maybe," Spike conceded, looking at Tara. She met his gaze with her own, and involuntarily smiled.

Wesley observed the two with internal concern, then covered himself by picking up and opening another book.

 


"Oh my god," Buffy cried out. "Look at this place!"

The training room Spike had tried to dismiss as nothing meanwhile, was causing comments of praise from the slayer. A punching bag suspended from the ceiling, and a vaulting horse was nestled amongst some mats. Against the far wall stood a set of weights, and some thought had even been given to interior flourishes, with ancient symbols painted on the floor and walls.

Buffy turned to Giles and Xander, who had followed them into the room. "Thank you. Thank you ... so much."

Giles removed his glasses and began cleaning them. "It's just a start, you need a proper space to train, so....."

"I love it," Buffy assured him. "It must have been so much work."

"I'm the dummy man," Xander replied. "I mean, I ... made the dummy. The thing that you hit that doesn't hit back. That, I made."

"It's great," Buffy affirmed. "It's all great."

"Well, you've earned it," Giles said, putting his glasses back on. "Truly."

"Thank you guys so much. You're like my ... fairy godmother and Santa Claus and Q all wrapped up into one. And I mean Q from Bond, not Star Trek. I'm gonna go change."

 


"Anything?"

Doyle opened his eyes. "No," he replied, making her sigh. "It's not working." He reached forward, towards the jars.

Cordelia grabbed his wrist, making him wince. "Hey, it's not whiskey," he pointed out to her.

"No, these are more dangerous than alcohol." Cordelia took his hand in both of hers. "Remember what Jenny said, an overdose could cause madness."

"'Delia, I'm half Bracken," Doyle reminded her. "I think I my body can take a bit more than your average human."

"Fine, on your head be it," his girlfriend remarked, releasing his captive hand.

Doyle smiled reassuringly at her, then picked up the jar. Silently he lifted the cap and inserted a spoon. Once he covered the latter completely in the deadly plant, he carefully lifted it out and put it in his mouth. Wincing at the bitter taste, he swallowed and closed his eyes.

Black nothingness descended on his pupils. Doyle relaxed his posture, waiting.

Suddenly, he felt the ringing sound in his ears. A stream of images rushed into his brain, too rapidly for him to focus at first. Then gradually the speed slackened, enabling him to define surroundings, time, people.

He saw a swirling light. A ball of energy, surrounded by the barrier of a darkened room. Brown monastic robes. Whispering voices, the sound of prayers, or chants. His head began to pound. He put a hand up to his temple, only to realise the noise was in his vision. A door was being forced open.
Panic took hold of the some of the chanting voices. The door resisted a few seconds longer, then surrendered, falling to the floor. Something walked inside.........

The last thing Doyle remembered seeing was the terror on the monk's faces before he lost consciousness.

 


"How is he?"

Cordelia turned round and relaxed a fraction as she saw the rest of the Scoobies come to a halt behind the slayer. "I don't know, they're still examining him."

"What happened?" Jenny asked as Buffy moved her friend to a row of side chairs and persuaded her to sit down with the gentle pressured of her strength.

"He decided to take an extra dose," Cordelia explained. "He closed his eyes. I saw him put a hand to his temple, then he just fainted." She clutched at Buffy's hand. "I was so scared....."

"It's alright," Buffy assured her. "He'll be okay."

"Hello?" A voice said, making them look up. "Your friend's doing just fine, Miss Chase."

"He is?" Cordelia sought to confirm.

The young man in white coat and stethoscope nodded. "Aside from a major headache, Mr Doyle should be fine in a few days. You can go and see him, the doctor's just checking him over before he discharges."

"Thank you," Cordelia replied before rising from her chair and going to the room. Buffy rose also and turned to face the man.

"I'm Ben," he introduced himself, "I'm an intern here. I was working with the doctor when your friends came in."

"Buffy Summers," the slayer returned, shaking his hand. "I'm glad he's okay, Cordy sounded so worried on the phone."

"I'm not surprised, it is disconcerting to see someone fainting without cause."

"Without cause?" Buffy repeated, trying to sound genuinely puzzled.

"Nothing to induce it I mean. Mr Doyle's tests came back all normal. I think it's just a case of overwork and stress. I gather he's a professor at the university?"

"Yes," Buffy replied, inwardly breathing a sigh of relief that Doyle's heritage and potions takings had not come up in the tests. "He was teacher at the High School, until it..... burned down, then he came to the university, that's how we all know him."

"I see," Ben said with a nod. "Such traumatic situations can bring large groups of people together."

Buffy inclined her head in agreement. Ben held up the file he was carrying. "I better get this to the reception desk," he remarked. "Goodbye, Miss Summers."

"Bye," Buffy replied, and briefly watched him go. Angel looked at her steadily as he came up to join her, causing her to wonder aloud. "What?"

"Something there?" He asked her.

"No," she assured him. "At least I don't think so." She paused, looking at his dark eyes, which had now transferred to the disappearing intern. "Why?"

"He was looking at you a lot," Angel replied, making her chuckle.

"Jealous?" She asked him.

"No," He replied, "just concerned."

Buffy turned her gaze from her beloved to the now out of sight medical student, and reflected back on the conversation. Barely had she begun to think back however when Cordelia and Doyle emerged from the room behind them.

"Let's get out here," the latter decided, before leading the way, causing all to follow after the couple's wake.

 


"You can't be serious!"

The evening darkness had just begun to settle on the dale of the sun, and the Scoobies had gathered themselves back at the magic shop- much to Spike's annoyance, though most suspected by now that the words of irritation were just a cover for how he really felt; pleased to belong to a group of people who made a difference in the world.

Doyle now turned his gaze on his girlfriend, and attempted to calm her down. "I am serious, 'delia. I need to have visions."

"By taking things that make you faint!" Cordelia reminded him incredulously.

The half-bracken shrugged. "If it helps them."

"No," Cordelia almost yelled. "I won't let you. What happens if it makes you worse the next time?"

"I can't ignore my gift, Cordy."

"It's not gift if you have to induce it!"

"If I may interrupt," Giles began, "I have to agree with Cordelia here."

"I don't care what you think......" Cordelia began to shout at them, then trailed off as his words reached her brain. "Oh, you think I'm right?"

"Novel, I know," Giles returned wryly. "But you are. Doyle, something is very wrong with your gift if you are resorting to inducing it via intravenous methods. You need to consult the Powers That Be."

"I want to speak to the Powers-That-Be!" Cordelia cried, rising from the seat she had taken when Giles expressed his support.

Doyle rapidly grabbed her wrist. "Woah, woah, woah! That's easier said then done, darlin'. The Powers-That-Be don't live in our reality. You have to approach them through channels. Dangerous channels."

"Yeah, you know what? Start approaching!" Cordelia returned with a glare.

"All right. All right. Maybe we can try the Oracles."

"The What a 'cles?" Cordelia asked him.

"Oracles," Giles replied, rising from his chair to fetch a volume from the Magic Shop Bookshelves. "They are intermediaries for the Powers. It is written that they can see into a human's soul."

He laid open the volume before them, where a description of the beings was written. The Scoobies studied the passage for a few minutes.

"'Located at the Gateway for Lost Souls,'" Buffy read aloud. "Okay, I think I see one slight flaw in this plan."

"It's not," Doyle replied. "I know where that is. I'm still not sure I should do this however."

"Do you want your visions back?" Cordelia asked him.

"If you'd asked me that a couple of years ago, no," Doyle answered her. "I used to hate them. I ignored them for as long as I could. But eventually I had to come here." He looked to the slayer. "And help you. Since then....... I guess if I'm ready to fall unconscious for them, then I'm ready to go to the Oracles. But hey, if they turn me into a toad - don't say I didn't warn you."

He rose up from his chair and headed to the coat rack by the door. Cordelia rushed ahead of him, grabbed his jacket, and fished out his car keys.

"Hey," Doyle objected as she handed him the former but kept the latter.

"If you think I'm letting you go alone, you've got another think coming," Cordelia replied before opening the door. "Now, come on."

 


"So 'The Gateway for Lost Souls' is under the post office?" Cordelia sought to confirm as she turned to her boyfriend a few minutes later.

"It makes sense if you think about it," Doyle replied. "Now listen, the Oracles are finicky and unpredictable. When we get in, don't dilly-dally. Ask our questions, get out." He paused. "I'm sure I'm forgetting something."

"What's the urn and the herb's for?"

"Little incantation before entry is granted." Doyle put the herb's into the urn, which he placed on a table in the stone walled cavern. "'We beseech access to the knowing ones.'" He took out a lighter and set the herb's a flame. A bright white fire was the result. "We're in."

He walked through the archway, Cordelia following. Soon they found themselves before two blue flesh beings, adorned with sliver paint and Roman style robes.

"Come before us, lower beings," the man said, his voice echoing around the chamber.

"What have you brought us?" The woman asked.

Cordelia turned to Doyle. "Were we supposed to.."

"You call us forth and bring us no offering?" The man queried.

"Knew I forgot something," Doyle muttered, before searching his pockets. Cordelia sighed and slipped off her wristwatch. "We brought you this," she said, showing it to the woman.

She held out a hand and the watch flew towards her. "I like time," the female Oracle mused as she gazed at the piece. "There is so little and so much of it."

"Why have you come to us?" The male Oracle asked.

"I'm having trouble with my gift," Doyle began.

"Ah, yes, your second sight," the female Oracle remarked. She held the watch out to the man, who with a flick of his hand commanded it towards him, then came to stand before Doyle. Slowly she cast her hands over his eyes. "Yes, it has been Spartan in its' rewards."

"Rewards my foot," Cordelia said, causing the Oracles to turn to her. "What about the headaches he gets afterwards?"

"It requires great strength to see the future," the male Oracle revealed in an tone of admonishment. "To see the pain of others. Such gifts do not come with out a price. It is the way of our world as much as your own."

"You were right to come to us," the female Oracle continued to Doyle. "You gift is conflicted, and not by the drugs you took to induce the last vision you had."

"Why is it conflicted?" Cordelia asked.

"Something has been placed before them," the woman answered, her hands now upon Doyle's temples. "A barrier of supernatural origin."

"Who could have done this?" Cordelia queried.

"That is unforeseeable," the female Oracle replied. "Someone of great power, it must have been." She pressed a strange shape over Doyle's forehead, too fast for his girlfriend to identify it. "There. I have lifted the barrier. When you leave this place your visions will come to as they did before."

"Thank you," Doyle said, his tone deeply respectful.

The Oracles raised their hands, a bright light blinded the couple, and then they were back in the basement of the post office.



"Then there is a swirling light. A ball of energy, surrounded by the barrier of a darkened room. People in brown monastic robes. I could hear whispering voices, the sound of prayers, or chants. The noise of something pounding. The door was being forced open.

"Panic takes hold of the some of the chanting voices. The door resists for a few seconds longer, then surrenders, falling to the floor. Something walked inside.......... The last thing I see is the terror on the monk's faces and the vision ends."

Buffy was silent a long time after Doyle had finished telling her, Cordelia, Jenny, Angel, Spike, Giles and Wesley the details of his vision, which he had seen again after he and Cordelia were returned to the basement of the post office. After the couple returned to the magic shop, Doyle had persuaded the others to go home, uncertain that the full details of his vision should be told to the entire group, particularly with the revelation of the existence of a barrier within his mind.

"And you don't see anything of who enters the room?" The chosen one eventually asked him.

Doyle shook his head. "Nothing. Just the terror. Buffy, the look on those monk's faces...... I doubt if any of them survived whatever it was they feared."

"And what about this barrier," Giles began, "did the Oracles reveal who made it?"

"No," Cordelia informed them. "All mysterious and cryptic they were. But its obviously Elita."

"I don't think so," Buffy said.

Angel nodded in accordance. "I can't feel any power of that kind from her," he said.

"Though I hate to agree with you, mate," Spike added, "you're right in this case. What ever she is, Elita's not the prime suspect for this."

"But she is involved," Cordelia persisted. "She has to be."

"That's why I didn't think we should let everybody know this," Doyle remarked. "We're already all distrusting her, and if you throw the barrier thing into the mix.........." he trailed off, letting the end of his sentence speak for itself.

"No, you were right," Wesley assured him. "We can't afford to reveal our hand just yet. Even if we don't hold all the cards."

"I just wish I had a suspicion," Buffy mused as she rose, signalling the meeting to come to an end. "I hate being in the dark."

"We just need to be patient," Jenny reasoned. "Whatever it is will reveal itself in good time, I'm sure."

"I still don't like it," Buffy continued. "I thought the Initiative and Adam were bad last year. If a vision, a magical barrier and a damsel in distress are gonna be our only clues for a while, then I dread to think what's gunning for us this year."

The End.
To Be Continued In.
No Place Like Home.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Dialogue borrowed from the original episode, along with plot, with necessary changes for additional characters. You may notice also that one character's future will be changed in this episode, which I'll warn you now is the first of many this season. Enjoy.

No Place Like Home.

Two Months ago.........

Two figures in brown monastic robes ran for their lives down a corridor. Clutching to their chest candles and books, terror in their minds and upon their faces.

"It's coming," one called to the other in Czech. "It's going to kill us!"

"Our lives aren't important," argued the other. "We have to protect the Key."

They reached a large room where a third, more senior monk was awaiting them. Together they laid out the items they had been carrying upon the floor.

"Help me perform the ritual," the senior monk requested.

All the monks extended their arms and began to chant. As they spoke the ancient words, a tremendous crash echoed through the holy building, making the wooden doors behind them shake with aftershock. The junior monks ceased their chanting to glance fearfully at the door.

"Concentrate," the senior one admonished them. "Concentrate."

Abruptly a swirling light; a ball of energy appeared in the middle of their makeshift circle, made brighter still by the darkened room. The door began to weaken under the pounding which had begun immediately after the shaking had ceased. As the wooden barrier finally gave way, the room fell into darkness, as something walked inside.

 


Now.......

PRIVATE PROPERTY
NO TRESPASSING
VIOLATORS WILL BE PROSECUTED

The words made no register in the slayer's mind as her body was slammed against the sign upon the chain fence which bore them. As she still reeled from the impact she quickly ducked before a fist punched the spot where her head had been.

"I've always wanted to kill the Slayer," announced her victim of the evening; a biker style Hell's Angel vampire.

"And I've always wanted piano lessons," Buffy returned. "So really, who's surprised we have all this unexpressed rage?" She punctuated these words with blows to the vampire, who retaliated with another punch to her face, this time hitting the mark. Buffy reeled, blocked a second blow, then used her destiny given strength to grab his arm and slam him against the fence.

"But honestly? I think I'm expressing mine better," she remarked. "Tell you what... you find yourself a good anger management class..."

The vampire tried to throw her off, but she merely slammed him into the fence again and pulled out her stake. "And I'll jam this poky wood stick through your heart," she declared, before doing so. "I think that sets the world speed record for closure," she muttered to herself as she put the stake away.

"Hey!" A man shouted, and a bright beam of torch light shone in her eyes. Buffy blinked to find a night-watchman standing before her. "Miss, if you're looking for one of those rave parties, I'm afraid you're late. Chased a bunch of kids out of here last night."

"Oh, right," Buffy replied, affecting disappointment. "Yeah. Darn. My fellow ravers will be so disappointed. It was my turn to bring the Bundt cake."

The night watchman put his torch aside. "You know, if it was my call, I'd let you do whatever you want. It's not like anybody's using this place or nothing. But they just don't pay me enough to argue with the boss so..."

"Already gone!" Buffy declared turning to the road.

"Oh, hey! Hold it, miss. Take your... whatever this is with you." He handed her a glowing orb.

"Thank you," Buffy replied, her eyes studying it.

"Glow balls, huh?" The watchman laughed. "I swear, I don't get your generation. What is that thing?"

"I'll let you know as soon as I find out," Buffy replied as she walked away.

 


Much to Spike's faux annoyance, a Scooby meeting was summoned in the Magic Box the next morning. The slayerettes gathered themselves around the large table in the book area of the shop as their chosen warrior took out the strange gift she had received the night before.

"I put this before the group. What the hell is it?" She asked her watcher.

"It appears to be paranormal in origin," Giles answered decisively.

"How can you tell?" Willow asked.

"Well, it's so shiny," Giles replied.

"Found it on patrol," Buffy added as she sat down.

"Well," Wesley began as he studied it, "we shall have a look and report back as soon we're any wiser on it's origins or nature."

Buffy nodded and rose from her chair as the bell above the door rang, announcing a customer. She looked up to see who it was. "Mom, are you okay?"

Joyce Summer smiled at her reassuringly as she came up to hug her daughter. "I'm fine, honey. The doctors said it was nothing."

"Are you sure?" She asked anxiously, receiving a calm nod in return.

"Yes, it was just a scare. They gave me the all clear, I promise."

"Good," the slayer declared as she released her. "I was so worried."

"Well, don't be. I'm perfectly fine to join you, Angel, Spike and Elita for dinner tonight. That's if it's still on?"

"Yeah, it is," Buffy assured her. "Angel's preparing one of his specials."

"I look forward to it."

"Er, Buffy, don't you need to check out the hospital?" Willow reminded her. "They've had another case of insanity last night."

"That's the fifth this week," Buffy mused as she collected her book bag. "I'll go and check it out."

 


"Hey! It's Buffy, isn't it?" A man addressed her as she stood before the admit desk. Buffy looked at him in confusion.

"Ben...," he reminded her. "I was with that doctor who looked after your friend, Doyle? but you can call me man-nurse. Everybody else here does."

"I remember," Buffy replied. "He's fine now, thank you," she added, as she saw a patient being wheeled in. To her surprise it was the night watchman who had given her the glowing orb the night before.

"I don't belong here. I have important instructions. Fascists!"

Ben pushed him back down on the gurney. "Now you're hurting the nice orderly who's here to help you. I need nine cc's of Phenobarbital in this guy n-...." He trailed off as Buffy slammed him down on to the gurney with one arm effortlessly.

"Or not," Ben uttered, surprised. "Now let's strap him. For your own good, I promise." He turned from the man to his companion. "You know, not to be rampantly sexist in the workplace, but you've got some serious muscles for a girl."

"I... um..." Buffy searched for a cover.

"Radioactive spider bite," Ben decided.

"How'd you guess?" She returned.

"I'm a doctor- well, almost."

The watchman grabbed her arm. "Doesn't even help. Doesn't make a damn bit of difference!"

"I've met this guy," Buffy said to Ben. "He's a security guard. He's not crazy."

"If you say so..." Ben said, not entirely convinced.

"They're coming at you. Don't think you're above it, missy. They come through the family! They get to your family!"

"My family? What do you mean?" Buffy asked him.

"Let's get him to Exam One. Now would be nice," Ben decided.

Buffy watched them go, her original reason for visiting disappearing from her mind. Slowly she turned round and headed back to campus.

 


"God help me!"

One of the surviving monks appealed to the heavens above as he crouched before a circle of lit candles and magical icons. He marked locations on a map in front of him.

Suddenly a deep boom reverberates through the factory, making him look fearfully at the tempered steel door, which shuddered under the impact of pressure from the outside.

"The Beast!" He cried.

The pounding continued until the metal buckled inward and flew into the room, taking a good portion of the wall with it. In walked a slender blond woman in a form fitting red dress, a paradoxical sight to the destruction which had announced her arrival.

"There you are," she addressed the now cowering monk. "I have been looking all over for you."

 



"Thank you for stopping at the Magic Box," Spike remarked, suddenly polite and at his most learned English in the face of his first customer. He watched them leave, then turned to Willow with a smile.

"Did you see that? Customers! Real, live customers! No demons in sight." He remarked.

"Congratulations," Willow replied. "You're an official capitalist running dog. But I gotta tell ya... on the orbular front? We're batting zeroes."

"Well, we'll just have to keep trying," Giles said from his place at the table. "If there's anything you need help with, let me know."

"Your conjuring powder is grotesquely overpriced," Anya informed Spike as she deposited her purchase in front of him.

"So?" Spike challenged.

"I'm sorry," the former vengeance demon apologised. "I'm nearly out of money. I've never had to afford things before and it's making me bitter."

"The change is palpable," Giles uttered.

"That stuff doesn't come cheap," Spike added.

"Well, you're getting ripped off. I could hook you up with the troll that sheds it," Anya offered.

Buffy entered the shop. "You guys need to be careful around this orb. The night watchman who found this thing? He went crazy- like overnight. It didn't affect me. I had it on me all night. But this guy, he saw things... he said things."

"Such as?" Giles inquired.

"They'll come at me through my family."

"Who will?" Her watcher asked.

"I don't know... yet. But whatever touched this guy, it made him see through what the rest of us are seeing. He knew someone's trying to get to me."

"It's possible," Giles allowed as he studied the orb, "but still... the ramblings of a madman aren't much to go on."

"Yeah, but it's a start," Buffy reasoned. "Now, I need to go, or I'll be late for dinner."

 


"You know, when you think about it, I'm the victim here," the blond woman declared to the now tied up monk in the warehouse. "First off, I don't even want to be here. And I'm not talking about this room or this city or this state or this planet. I'm talking about the whole mortal coil now, you know? It's disgusting! The food... the clothes... the people. I could crap a better existence than this. But... okay- and feel free to tell me if this next part gets a little too personal, because I'm told I have boundary issues- but I'm hurt! Yes, by your incredibly selfish behaviour. News flash, hairdo: it's not always about you. All I want is the Key! Why? Why can't you tell me where the Key is? Forgive me... monkey. Sometimes I just... I get so anxious- like there's something deep inside of me and it's swelling up and it's making me crazy!- that I forget there's all that duct tape on your face!"

With a violent motion she ripped the offending article off the monk's face. "Now... tell me where the Key is." She put her fingers in his eyes. "Or I'm going bowling." She held them till he stuttered in pain, then released. "It's okay, it's okay, it's okay! The stutter's sexy. Keep it coming."

"Kill me... kill me," the monk pleaded in his native tongue.

"We're in the New World now so please, for God's sake, speak American!" The blond woman returned in his language.

"I... will tell you... nothing," the monk replied defiantly.

"Fine. You know what I wish? I wish that you could feel what I'm feeling right now." She turned close to tears, to the other prisoner in her mist.

"Lady, whatever you are... whatever you're on, please," the guard pleaded.

"'Cause I don't know how much more of this I can take," the blond woman uttered, ignoring him.

"I have a wife. Her name's Jennifer. We have two daughters," the guard added.

Blond turned to the monk. "I bet this is fun for you, isn't it? Say it. Why? You don't even own the damn thing and I want it, I need it and I gotta have it now and you keep refusing to tell me where the Key is! It's typical! The whole mortal meat sack comes complete with stink and bile sweat and protein. Yes, I said humans! Not now, Mommy's talking! Wriggling, piling, prowling, crawling, clowning, cavorting, doing it over and over and over and over until someone's gonna sit down on their tuffet and make this birthing stop!"

With a strangled cry of despair, blond put her fingers either side of the hapless guard's head. White light flared and his went wide in shock and pain. He collapsed to the floor, whimpering and gasping, while blond took a deep breath and stood, calm and refreshed.

"Ahh... that is so much better," she declared.

 


"Do you gift wrap?" Asked a customer at the Magic Box.

"Do we!" Willow repeated, turning to Anya for help. "Do we?" The former vengeance demon nodded. "Oh! We do. Little help..."

"No, no. Ground cloven hooves are 30% off," Spike informed another customer. "The whole ones are full price. That's not... candy!"

He clutched at one of the Scoobies frantically. "Xander! There's too many of them... people! And they all seem to want things."

"I hear ya. Spike, you're losing all form of why I used to be scared by you. Stay British. You'll be okay." He headed over to his girlfriend. "The thousand-yard stare. Damn! You hate to see it on any man but especially in retail."

Anya handed another purchase to the customer. "Please go." Xander turned to her. "Anya, the Shopkeeper's Union of America called. They wanted me to tell you that 'please go' just got replaced with 'have a nice day.'"

"But I have their money. Who cares what kind of day they have?" Anya replied.

"No one. It's just a long cultural tradition of raging insincerity. Embrace it."

"Hey, you!" Anya called to the departing customer. "Have a nice day."

"There's my girl!" Xander declared as she grinned with pride.

"Does this look right to you?" Willow asked Anya as she handed her an oddly wrapped hourglass.

"Sure, if you wrapped it with your feet," Anya returned. "You know, Buffy, there used to be this French sorcerer back in the 16th I don't know what named-..."

"Cloutier?" Giles queried.

"So cute in his little knickers. But he had this one spell demons just hated called tirer la couture."

"Rotate many foodstuffs?" Buffy translated.

"Pull the curtain back," Willow corrected.

"A spell to see spells..." Anya informed her. "Well, a trance to see spells, actually, but you get the idea. Try that."

"What do you mean 'see' spells?" Buffy asked.

"Well, all spells leave a trace signature," Giles explained. "It's just not perceptible to the human eye. Like a hand choking Elita."

"Or a cloud of mist around her," Anya added.

"Or maybe the shape of the demon that's performing the spell?" Willow suggested.

"Possible, yes," Giles allowed.

"Okay, so I'll do what Monsieur Silk Knickers did. I'll go home, I'll get trancey and I'll see if I can find anything out."

"I don't know, Buffy. Trances?" Willow uttered.

Giles nodded. "Yes, Buffy, the Sorcerer Cloutier was legendary. His skills at achieving higher states of consciousness were-"

"Better than mine? I knew he was gonna say that. But I've been practising my concentration skills. I know I'm close."

"Are you ready?" Giles asked her.

"I'll get ready. What do I need?"

 


At 1902 Crawford Street Buffy prepared for the ritual in one of the spare bedrooms; lighting incense, pouring conjuring powder around herself in a circle. Then she sat with her legs crossed, and closed her eyes, preparing to meditate.

Eventually she slipped into the trance, slowly opening her eyes to study her surroundings. The room appeared sepia, old and faded, but otherwise nothing was out of the ordinary.

Cautiously she rose to her feet and entered the hall way. She walked towards the room where her and Angel's lodger had been residing ever since they rescued her from Harmony and her minions.

Elita was inside, reading upon the bed. Her form faded in and out before the slayer, as Buffy suddenly realised what was wrong with her world.

Or rather who.

Abruptly she seized Elita by her arms. "You're not real."

"Ow! What are you doing?" Elita asked her.

"What are you?" Buffy commanded.

"Get off me!" Elita cried.

"You want to hurt me?"

"Let go of me, you freak!" Elita shouted.

"Then you deal with me." Buffy replied.

Suddenly the silence was broken by the ringing of a phone. Buffy threw Elita to the bed and went downstairs to answer it.

"Buffy? Oh, I'm glad I've caught you. I think we may have underestimated what we're dealing with."

"Go on," Buffy asked while she checked to make sure Elita was nowhere nearby.

"We've uncovered more than expected about this orb. It's called the Dagon Sphere and it has a history going back many centuries."

"What's it do?" She asked him.

"It's a protective device, used to ward off ancient primordial evil."

"Any word on what this evil looks like?"

"Unfortunately, no. This is where accounts get vague. All we've managed to uncover so far is the Dagon Sphere was created to repel That Which Cannot Be Named."

"I'm going to go back to the factory where I found it," Buffy informed him. "Whoever planted this doohicke's got answers."

"Buffy, you've heard me say this before but do be careful. Anything that goes unnamed is usually an object of deep worship or great fear- maybe both. Have you completed the trance? What did you see?"

"That's the thing... I just saw-" Buffy broke off as Elita appeared at the head of the stairs just above her.

"Yes?" Giles inquired.

"Nothing. It didn't work," Buffy lied. She ended the call.

"What are you talking about?" Elita asked her.

"Slayer stuff. I'm going out."

 


PRIVATE PROPERTY
NO TRESPASSING
VIOLATORS WILL BE PROSECUTED

Buffy paid no attention to the sign as she ripped herself an entrance in the chain fence and investigated the warehouse.

It did not take her long to find the semiconscious monk tied to the chair.

"Whoa," She uttered as she rushed to his aid. "It was you who planted the Dagon Sphere, right? I got it. Don't worry. I'm stronger than I look. I've have had experience with stuff like this before. Best of all..." She broke off to whirl round and seize the blond by the throat. "I'm not stupid."

Blond grabbed her arm, wrenched herself free and sent the slayer flying across the room. Stunned Buffy slammed into the cement floor hard.

"You sure about that last part?" The blond asked her.

 


"Would someone please rip that bloody bell off its hinges?" Spike asked as he clutched his head in exhaustion.

"Would that involve moving?" Xander asked him.

"My feet are numb," Willow informed the people on the shop floor.

"I'll see your numbness and I'll raise you a lower back pain," her best friend replied.

"I think I liked it better when demons would just crash in here and tear the place apart. Just seemed so much simpler," Giles commented.

"You're out of crystal balls," Anya informed Spike. "Those babies are really popular with the amateurs. Better restock and raise the price 10%. Make it 15."

"Anya..." Spike began.

"Your cash register looks like squirrels nest in it," Anya continued, oblivious.

"Anya..."

"And the Hand of Glory packs some serious raw power. Better institute a seven-day background check for-"

"Anya!" Spike yelled. "Would you like a job?"

"Okay." The ex-vegeance demon grinned.

"Good. Then we can talk shop tomorrow," Spike decided.

"Okay... boss."

"Hey, any word from Buffy on how her spell went?" Willow asked the watcher.

"She said it didn't work. Now she's off investigating whoever left the Dagon Sphere behind," Giles informed them.

"You're not worried about the Slaymaster General, are you Big G?" Xander asked.

"No, no," Giles replied. "I just hope she isn't doing anything too rash."

 


Back at the factory, Buffy flew into the concrete floor again, it cracking under the force of the impact.

"And another thing? I just want you to know..." Blond picked her up and slammed her into a supporting pillar. "The whole 'beat ya to death' thing I'm doing? It's valuable time out of life that I'm never gonna get back."

Buffy tried to fight back, but the blond merely grabbed her arms and wrenched them downwards. "Wait, I've always wanted to try this. You know that thing with worms where if you have one, you rip it in half, you got two worms? Do you think that'll work with you?"

The slayer threw her face into the blond's and managed to break free.

"You hit me! What, are you crazy? You can't go around hitting people. What, were you born in a barn? Fine. Be that way."

Blond blocked the slayer's next blow with ease and swung her round into the wall. She sent a blow for her head, but Buffy ducked so the fist received concrete instead. Blond picked the slayer up by the throat.

"I just noticed something. You have super powers. That is so cool. Can you fly?" She hurled Buffy clear across the room, where she landed dazed, next to the dying monk. Buffy rose to her feet to engage the blond, but then realised that it was better to rescue the blond's previous victim. She helped him out of the chair.

"Hey! Hands off my holy man!"

Buffy ignored her and picked the monk up. She headed to the nearest window and hurled herself and the monk through it into the night outside.

Inside blond prepared to chase them, but the heel broke on her red shoe. In disgust she picked it up and threw it away, before slamming her bare foot down on the floor.

The building could not survive the impact. It demolished itself around her.

"Oh, shi-" She cried, but her voice was quieted by the falling rubble.

 


"Stop. Please." The monk appealed to his saviour.

"No. We have to keep going," Buffy overruled him.

They reached the chain fence only for the monk to collapse against it. "My journey's done, I think."

"Don't get metaphory on me. We're going."

"You have to... the Key. You must protect the Key."

"Fine. We can protect the Key together, okay, just far, far from here."

"Many more die if you don't keep it safe."

"How? What is it?"

"The Key is energy. It's a portal. It opens the door..."

"The Dagon Sphere?"

"No. For centuries it had no form at all. My brethren, its only keepers. Then the abomination found us. We had to hide the Key, gave it form, moulded it flesh... made it human and sent it to you."

Buffy stilled as she suddenly realised who the monk was talking about. "Elita."

"She's the Key," the monk confirmed.

"You put that in my house?" Buffy yelled at him.

"We knew the Slayer would protect."

"This is my life you're-"

"You cannot abandon."

"I didn't ask for this! I don't even know... what is she?"

"Human... now human," the monk informed her. "And helpless. Please... she's an innocent in this. She needs you."

"She's not my friend."

"She doesn't know that," the monk replied. He took a last shuddering breath, then died in her arms, leaving Buffy stunned and shocked by all he had revealed.

 


Buffy entered 1902 Crawford Street a few minutes later to find her boyfriend, mother and lodgers gathered for dinner.

"You're home," Angel said, rising from his to stand before her. "Are you okay?" He asked, his keen senses detecting the injuries she was hiding.

"I will be," she answered him softly. Slowly she allowed him to take her hand and lead her to the sofa, where she sank gratefully into its soft furnishings.

Angel cradled her in his embrace as they ate dinner in the living room, where Buffy tried to be herself until her mother had left and Elita had retired for the night.

"What happened?" Angel asked her as Spike handed round hot chocolates full of marsh mellows.

Buffy slowly told him and Spike what had happened to her when she returned to the factory only hours ago.

"Incredible," her soulmate uttered when she had finished. "And Elita has no idea?"

"None apparently," Buffy replied, "according to the monk. I don't know what to do, Angel. Whoever this girl was, she's stronger than anything I've faced before. I barely got away from her. How am I meant to stop her?"

"We'll find a way," Angel replied, his hands tenderly caressing her hair as she lay in his arms. "We always do."

"I wish I had your confidence," Buffy confessed.

Angel placed a finger under her chin and raised her head until his mouth could kiss her own. "I've learned many things in my life, beloved. One of them is to never lose my faith in you and what you can do. We'll get through this."

Buffy raised a hand to stroke his cheek. "I hope we do," she whispered, before he kissed her again.

The End.
To Be Continued In...
Family.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: This is a rewrite of the original episode, but with several changes; most notably; that the whole thing is from Tara's perspective, and who she ends up with at the end. I'm not prejudicial, or racial, or anything else which comes under that category, this is just the way I planned this from the moment I decided to rewrite this episode. I've also gone for more of a back story on how Tara came to be at Sunnydale UC, giving a vaguely subtle addition to Wesley's year away from the hellmouth as well. Enjoy.

Family.

"Do you think Buffy found out anything tonight?" Tara asked her companion.

"At the factory? I don't know. If there was something, I figured she'd call us." Wesley paused, suddenly unsure of himself, despite all his mental preparation for this conversation. "But that's not why I wanted to see you tonight. It's coming in two days and you still haven't told them the truth."

Tara took a deep to try and calm herself, but even so her reply reverted to her old nervousness. "I-I c-can't W-Wesley," she paused to take another deep breath, turning away from him to gaze out of her dorm room window. "I can't," she answered in a firmer but still soft voice. "There hasn't been enough time."

"You promised me that you would," Wesley reminded her.

"It's not even a year," Tara argued. "I can't afford to lose them," she added in a lower tone.

"Who says you will?" Wesley asked her, moving closer to her stance by the window. "This is no ordinary group, remember. Look at Doyle."

"I'll give you that," Tara conceded. "But look at Spike. Some of them still don't trust him, even though he's almost like Angel."

"Spike is an entirely different case," Wes replied somewhat harshly, his distrust showing through his sudden change in voice. "His demon isn't cursed, only contained, by a piece of technology that belonged to a secret military controlled operation which we routed from Sunnydale only a few months ago. We have no idea of it's long term effects, or the longevity. There are some of us who still think that giving him that talisman against the sunlight so soon was unwise."

Tara sighed knowing some parts of his argument could turn out to be true. "This could all turn out to be nothing," she said, trying a different tack. "You told me once that you believed it was nothing more than a family myth," she added, turning to face him.

Now it was Wes' turn to avoid her gaze. "I never discovered enough to be truly certain of that," he replied in a low voice. "And some of your interests lately seem to indicate otherwise."

He knew as soon as he spoke that he had gone too far. Tara turned away from him and then increased the distance between them by walking to the other end of her room. "I thought I could trust you with this," she remarked sadly. "I've been accepted because I needed to be rescued," she added. "And if this is true, they can't rescue me from it." She moved to her door, and clasped the handle before continuing. "In two days, I shall know either way. Until then there seems no point telling them." She opened the door, signalling his dismissal.

With the apology on his face, Wesley met her eyes before walking past her and out into the corridor. He flinched involuntary as she closed the door, and stood still for one moment before it, as if his eyes had the ability to see through it's wooden makeup, his mind pondering on what might have been. Then he slowly walked away.

If he had been able to see beyond the door, he would have witnessed a sight which would have made him regret that the conversation had ever taken place. He would have seen Tara meet his gaze, before succumbing to tears and seeking refuge in her bed, until exhausted sleep claimed her body and soul.

 


"Uh, I don't know what to say."

"Tell me about it," the slayer replied, her eyes directed not at her watcher, but at the empty stairs which led up to the rest of 1902 Crawford Street, alert for the first sign of intrusion from one particular guest of her and Angel's household.

Giles took a sip of his tea. "She has no idea?"

"No. She still thinks she came to us to be rescued."

"Are you going to tell her?" He asked her.

"How can I?" Buffy sighed and rose from the sofa. "She'd freak, and that's the last thing we need." Her pacing led her to the still empty staircase. "We have to keep her safe," she added, before returning to the living area.

"This ... woman, this, uh, whatever she was... she knows you now," Giles reasoned, unsure what to call the attacker whom Buffy had encountered the night before. "Should we be thinking about sending Elita away?"

"Away where?" Buffy asked him. "They sent her to me, Giles. I think I have to take care of her. I want to."

Giles nodded silently, accepting the truth of that statement. "Do we tell the others?"

"I've told Angel and Spike. But I don't think anyone else should know. They'd act weird around her, and it's safer for everyone if they don't know."

"Yes," Giles agreed, rising from his seat, his slayer's restless nature proving contagious to him. "We have to find out who this woman is, and what she needs Elita for. I mean, if she comes after you....."

"She'll come," Buffy remarked with certainty, her gaze drifting towards the stairs once more. "She'll come for us."

 


Miles away, at the factory where Buffy had barely escaped with her life the night before, a pile of rubble was all the evidence that remained of her fight with the mysterious woman inside.

Suddenly said pile broke apart, as if it were the surface of an active volcano. Concrete rubble rattled down the pile as from the destruction emerged the red dressed woman, new enemy of the slayer.

"Okay," she began, staring angrily at the empty interior of the factory around her, "Now I'm upset."

 


Having seen her early visitor to the door, Buffy returned to her bedroom on the first floor of the Crawford Mansion, to find that her absence from bed had not been as unnoticed as she previously thought.

Angel was sitting upright amongst the sheets, his eyes acquiring a slight anxiousness about them as he watched her stiffness and quick intake of breath as she bent down to sit by him. "Starting to feel that fight?"

"Nothing like gettin' your ass kicked to ... make your ass hurt," Buffy replied, before giving into the temptation of resting herself against his bare chest.

"What did Giles say?" He asked her as his arms wrapped themselves losely around her.

"Pretty much what you and Spike said last night," she answered him. "He agrees we shouldn't tell the others, and our first priority is to find out who this woman is, and how to defeat her."

"Well, the next time she encounters you, you won't be alone," Angel decided, making her turn her head to look at him. "Hey, I can take care of myself, remember?"

"I know you can, beloved," he assured her, "but I also know that your first fight took a lot out of you, more than you're will to admit."

"Perhaps," Buffy allowed, her hands idly rubbing the skin of his arms. "But it also puts us at a disadvantage. As far as she knows, I work alone. Plus, I don't want you to get hurt either."

"I've been half-human for over a year now," Angel reminded her. "And I've lost none of my strength. And if she does prove a serious threat, she'll find out that you are an exception to the general rule of Slayer doctrine eventually anyway."

"Point taken," Buffy agreed, albeit reluctantly. She glanced at the beside table to the right of her, her eyes taking note of the hours until the alarm. Then she revolved herself in her soulmate's arms, her hands beginning to stroke his chest. "I'm way too wired to try and go back to sleep," she uttered softly.

Angel smiled as his brown eyes met her own and understood the message contained therein. "Shall I see if I can heal those aches of yours?" He inquired in the same tone, as his hands began to wander their way underneath her top.

She arched herself in response to his touch, her pelvis grinding on the sheet above his own. "I don't know, some of them are pretty deep," she replied, "they may require closer examination."

"Or a penetration cure?" He asked her, continuing to stroke her skin.

"Perhaps," she repeated, the word this time having an entirely different meaning.

 


"Ow! Thumb! Necessary opposable thumb!" Xander cried as he bumped his hand on one of the bookcases in the Magic Shop, where the Slayer had corralled the Scoobies into helping Spike unload his new stock intake during the first recess of the day.

"Sorry." Angel remarked, and his tone caused Xander to stare at him suspiciously. "You know I don't think you are."

"You know what, you guys, just let Angel or Buffy take it," Spike directed.

"Got it," Xander replied, setting the box down instantly. Behind them the bell above the shop door rang, as Elita came in, carrying a pile of smaller boxes which partially obscured her vision. "I don't need help."

"Just be careful," Buffy admonished.

"But we just helped him move other stuff a few days ago..." Anya uttered as she entered, until she encountered Spike's glare. "And it was fun!" She tried to recover.

"People help each other out, Anya," Giles informed her, looking up from the book he was studying. "It's one of our strange customs."

"Giles, I noticed you're doing the smallest amount of helping that can actually be called helping," Spike remarked.

"Well, I saw myself in more of a ... patriarchal sort of role. You know, lots of pointing and scowling," he paused, glancing at the entrance, then suited actions to his words. "You two, stop that!"

"He started it," Xander claimed as he tried to release himself from the headlock Angel was giving him. "He called me a bad name. I think it was bad. It might've been Latin."

"Stop it, or you're going to break something," Giles admonished.

"Or I'm going to break something," Buffy added, making the boys let go and return to helping. Spike met his sire's grin with one of his own, then turned to smile at Tara as she joined him in helping to unpack one of the boxes.

Buffy bent to lift up one of the heavier boxes, then stopped as her aches made themselves felt again.

"You alright?" Elita asked her as she straightened up.

Buffy nodded. "Yeah, I just wish I'd been able to defeat her. Usually I do when I'm feeling this much pain."

"You'll totally take her next time," Elita declared.

"'Cause you'll have backup, baby," Xander assured her. "She's messin' with all of us."

"Yes, we'll, find her weaknesses, and then...." Giles trailed off to mine a throat cutting motion.

"Yeah," Tara agreed. "You learn her source, and, uh, we'll introduce her to her insect reflection."

A confused silence met this remark, making Tara feel once more that she was still finding her place in this group she had been part of for nearly a year. "Um ... that, that was funny if you, um, studied Taglarin mythic rites..." she picked up the now empty box, lowering her voice before adding, "and are a complete dork," she headed off to the rear door of the shop.

"Guys, now remember, you have to be at the Bronze by eight," Spike said as he began opening another box.

Everyone met his face with blank expressions. "Bronze," Buffy prompted, she, Willow and Angel the only ones who seemed to know what the chipped vampire was referring to.

"Tomorrow night! Tara's birthday!" Willow added.

"Right! Right," Cordelia agreed, remembering.

"We have to bring presents, right? Birth is a present thing?" Anya asked her boyfriend.

"I got something ... picked out, yeah," Xander replied.

"You guys can all still come, right?" Willow asked them. "I mean, I know there's ... this new evil and all, but..."

"No, no. We'll be there," Buffy assured her best friend. "Tara deserves a proper welcome to us, it's long overdue. And personally, I could definitely use a break from all this craziness."

 


"What's the story?"

"Another crazy," the intern replied to the new doctor at Sunnydale General. "Got her family out there," he added, inclining his head in the direction of the waiting room.

"Okay, let me guess, no history of mental problems," Ben said.

"Yeah. That makes like five this month," the interned informed him.

"Ah, they told me Sunnydale was gonna be interesting," Ben replied wryly.

The intern chuckled. "Yeah. Aren't you off?"

Ben checked his watch. "Yeah, as of now. Have fun." With one last look towards the new patient, Ben turned and headed towards the locker rooms.

Once inside, he began to remove his hospital coat and scrubs, ready to change into his ordinary clothes.

Further down in the locker room, a grey skinned demon, with skin broken by blood-filled sores emerged from the darkness, his sunken eyes seeking out this potential prey. His mouth opened, and his black forked tongue rolled out, tasting the air, hissing in anticipation.

Suddenly a hand clamped round his mouth and another clasped his head.

"I need a favour," the girl in the red dress announced.

 


"Thank you for coming," Anya was heard to say to a customer at the Magic Shop a few hours later. "We value your patronage." Her voice rose as the customer walked towards the exit. "Please come again for more purchases!"

"Could we please be a little less smarmy, Anya?" Spike asked his new assistant. "Don't want to frighten the people."

"I'm just so excited," Anya explained. "They come in, I help them ... they give us money in exchange for goods ... you give me money for working for you ... I have a place in the world now. I'm part of the system. I'm a working gal."

"Yes. Well, why don't you start organising the shipping orders," Spike tried.

Anya shook her head. "Oh, no, that's boring. I just want to do the money parts."

"Well, sure I forgot about the party," Cordelia remarked to Xander as they entered the shop, Doyle following them. "I mean, there's kind of a lot going on. And it's not ... you know ... the most thrilling social event of the season."

"Yeah ... it's a big deal for Tara, though," Xander argued. "I mean, you are gonna be there?"

"Yeah," Cordelia assured him.

"Hey, hi," Anya called out, leaning over the counter. Xander met her with a hand outstretched to clasp her cheek. "Gimme sugar. I've come to buy sugar." He kissed her.

"Mmm," Anya uttered when they broke apart. "We value your patronage."

The bell rang again as the slayer and Angel entered. "So, Giles, any breakthroughs on the identity of Miss Congeniality?"

"Well, I have narrowed it down somewhat," Giles informed them.

"Your definition of narrow is impressively wide," Buffy remarked as she glanced at the large assortment of books which cluttered the table before him.

"Well, you didn't give me much to go on. She looks human, so the mug shots aren't any use, and, you can't be more specific about what she's like?"

Buffy thought for a moment. "She was kinda like Cordelia, actually. I'm pretty sure she dyes her hair."

"Hey!" Cordelia cried.

"No offence," Buffy added.

"Some taken," Cordelia said, before smiling to show that she wasn't deeply insulted.

"Right! That one, of course. Our work is done," Giles commented sarcastically.

"There must be something on her," Buffy said as she sat down at the table.

"The answer is somewhere here," Xander began dramatically. "It's right in front of us and we're too blind to see it!" He added, slamming his hand on the table. Buffy glanced at exasperated. "I'm helping, I'm reading, I'm quiet," he uttered, sitting down and picking up a book.

Giles walked to the stairs which led to the loft of books not for sale. Back at the table, Buffy turned to her friend. "So ... what'd you get her?"

"Huh?" Xander asked.

"Tara. You said you got a present already."

"Yeah, that was a tangled web of lies, sweetie," he confessed. "I'm not really sure what kind of thing she'd ... I mean, I don't really know her that well. I mean, she's nice. I don't necessarily get her ... but she's really nice. There's ... just that thing of not understanding half of what she says, for example. But she's super nice." He paused to turn a page. "Think there'll be a lot of Wiccas there, heavy Wiccan crowd?"

"No, it'll be just us lot," Buffy informed him.

Xander slammed the book shut. "Ugh! I have a present-buying headache. Tara's damn birthday is just one too many things for me to worry about."

"Like you have a lot of worry," Buffy countered, causing him to acquire an injured look. "Hey, I do help you know."

"I know," Buffy agreed. "But there's nothing much we can do yet. And this is Tara. We worked so hard to get her to be our friend in the first place, and out of selfish reasons at the time. The least we can do now is show her that our vows of friendship are as true now as they were almost a year ago."

"Your right," Xander agreed. "What did you get her?"

"I'm not telling you," Buffy replied. "And don't try asking Angel either. It's a surprise and it was pretty hard work obtaining it."

"Come up with anything yet?" Giles asked as he returned to the table.

"Well, candles, maybe, or bath oils of some kind," Xander replied.

"I saw a really cute sweater at Bloomy's," Cordelia informed them as she joined them at the table, "but, I think I want me to have it."

"And you are talking about what on earth?" Giles asked them.

"Tara's birthday," Buffy revealed. "They're at a loss."

"You're in a magic shop, and you can't think what Tara would like," Giles remarked. "I believe you're both profoundly stupid."

"Well, we don't really know ... the kind of things witches like. What, are we gonna get her some cheesy crystal ball?" Xander countered.

"Bloody well better not," the watcher replied. "I've got mine already wrapped."

"Uh, are all these magic books?" A blond, youngish guy asked them.

Giles rapidly walked over and took the book out of his hand. "Uh, private collection. Books for sale are against the walls over there."

Blond Guy ignored him. "So all these books got spells in 'em? Turn people into frogs, things like that?" He asked.

"Yeah, we're building a race of frog people. It's a good time." Xander joked.

"So, uh... You all witches? Hey, don't do a spell on me now." Blond Guy laughed.

"Was there something in particular you were looking for?" Spike asked, coming out from behind the counter.

Blond Guy continued to laughed, as the bell above the door rang, and Willow and Tara entered, the former laughing at the latter's previous joke.

"Her insect reflection. That is so good."

"I just thought that'd be funny, you know, if her centre of power was," Tara broke off as she stared at the customer.

"Whatta you know," Blond guy remarked, all laughter gone. "What's the matter? You don't have a hug for your big brother?"

Tara froze, her previous expression changing to one of alarm. Willow turned to her in surprise. "Brother?"

"Willow, this is D-Donny," Tara stuttered.

"Hi," Willow remarked, offering her hand.

Donny shook it. "Nice to meet you."

"And, uh, these are my-my friends," Tara added.

"What, uh, all of you hang out? Wow. That's more people than you met in high school," he remarked, punching her lightly on the arm.

"How did you fi - I, I mean, how come you came?" Tara asked.

"Well, duh, birthday girl. Uh, we came down in the camper, been all over the campus."

"We?" Tara queried, a quiet dread beginning to seep through her heart. Her inquiry was answered by another bell ring, as her father and her cousin entered the shop.

"Look what I found!" Donny said to them.

"Uh, Dad, hi," Tara began nervously.

"Well, here's my girl," Mr Maclay replied.

Tara hugged him awkwardly. "S-such a s-surprise."

"Yes," Donny agreed.

"Cousin Beth," Tara greeted the girl who had entered with her father.

"Hey," Beth replied.

"One of your dorm-mates said I might ... find you here," Mr Maclay remarked, looking around at the shop.

"Oh. Oh, um, these are, these are friends," Tara replied, gesturing at everyone. "Um, this is William, um, he runs the shop," she added as Spike came forward.

Spike adopted his learned accent. "How do you do?"

"Pleasure," Mr Maclay replied, though his voice belied the emotion of the word. "Well, I, I don't mean to interrupt your plans, I know we've come on you kind of suddenly, but I thought we could have dinner."

"Okay," Tara agreed.

"Why don't I pick you up at six, And we'll do some catching up."

"Yes, sir," Tara uttered softly.

"Forgive me for running out. We're double-parked," Mr Maclay said, preparing to exit the shop.

"Nice to meet you all," Donny said as they walked out.

"That's so weird. Your ... whole family," Willow commented when they were gone.

Tara tried to smile. "Yeah."

"They seem nice," Willow added.

Tara sought to cover herself. "You know, they-they're okay. Families are always....."

"They make you crazy," Willow finished in understanding.

"Usually." Tara turned as, out of the corner of her eyes, she saw the camper van drive out of sight. "I'll be back in a few minutes, I've forgot to ask my tutor something."

"Sure," Willow accepted, before walking to the others.

"Tara," Spike uttered, catching up with her as she exited his shop. "Are you okay?" He asked her, concerned.

"Yeah," she lied. "I'm fine. Go back in. I won't be long. And it's not dark yet."

"Not all demons are of the nightly variety," he said to her.

"You're right about that," Tara agreed. "Honestly, go. I can take care of myself." She walked away from him before she could hear his answer.

"I'm not sure you can this time, luv," Spike uttered, watching her until she turned the corner, then returning inside.

 


"Did you tell them where I was?"

Wesley turned round in astonishment to encounter Tara's grieved form in his empty private detective offices. "Who?"

"My family."

His surprise changed to concern as he understood. "No, Tara, I swear. The last thing I told them was that I failed to find you and was resigning myself from the case."

"Well, they're here now. They obviously hired someone else."

He saw the tears begin to fall down her face and rapidly walked over to her, pulling her into his arms. "I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault," Tara replied as she clung to him, taking deep breaths to prevent the sadness from overwhelming her.

"I told you Sunnydale might be a good place to hide," Wesley reminded her, before pressing a kiss to her hair. "I still think you should tell them," he added gently. "Buffy and the group. They'll understand. They might even be able to help."

"It's out of my hands now," Tara replied, reluctantly withdrawing from him. "You were right. I left it too late." She turned and walked out of his office.

"I didn't want to be," Wesley uttered softly, before returning to his work.

 


Instead of returning to the Magic Shop, Tara walked to her dorm, intending to see if any of her books could help in the research session. But she also knew, even before she entered the room and encountered his hard stare, that her father would not have content to leave their reunion at the Magic Shop like that.

"The door wasn't locked," he informed her. "I was a little early. I suppose you ... wanted me to see all these ... toys." His tone was one of disgust and regret. "You don't even try to hide it any more. I'd hoped maybe you'd gotten over the whole witchcraft thing. That if we let you go, you'd ... get it out of your system. Then they told me to look for you in ... that store."

"I didn't - I, I didn't kn-know that you were coming," Tara uttered.

"Of course we came. We've been looking for you for months. Your birthday's getting closer and closer. You know what that means."

"I don't think it's ... it, it won't mean that....."

"You're turning twenty. It's the same age your mother was when she... Do your friends even know?"

"Y-yes." Tara lied.

Her father saw straight through it. "Are you lying to me? Tara, you're coming home with us. You know it's the only way."

"Home?" Tara queried.

"You can't control what's going to happen. You have evil inside of you and it will come out. And letting yourself work all this magic is only going to make it worse. Where do you think that power comes from?"

"It ... it doesn't feel evil ... sir."

"Evil never does. I don't feel much like eating right now. I'll give you some time, but we need to be gone by morning. Your family loves you, Tara, no matter what. How do you think your friends are going to feel when they see your true face?"

 


The grey and blood sore demon roused himself from unconsciousness to discover that he had been tried to a clothes rack.

"Finally," the red dressed woman who had captured him remarked. "I thought you were gonna nap the whole day away. Stop whining. You know, I remember when the Lei-Ach were a proud warrior race, not sneaking around hospitals looking for weak sickly types to suck the bone marrow from. But ... let's talk about my problems for thirty seconds, if that's perfectly all right with you. Blonde ... short ... strong for a human ... and massively rude! Broke my shoe, took my monk, do you have any idea who I'm talking about?"

Lei-Ach growled and grunted in response.

"A slayer?? Oh god, please don't tell me I was fighting a vampire slayer!" The woman put a hand to her forehead in shame. "How unbelievably common! If I had friends, and they heard about this ... and you know she's going around telling everybody, I mean she probably just.." she paused to grab the demon by the throat, waking it up. "Pay attention! I am great and I am beautiful, and when I walk into a room all eyes turn to me, because my name is a holy name, and you will listen!" Her hand left his throat. "Get your friends ... find the girl ... kill the girl ... okay baby?" She grinned. "You have the cutest little suppurating sores! Has anyone ever told you that?"

 


"Hey."

Tara looked up from her previous occupation; staring at the crystal which her father had toyed with while he talked to her. "Hey," she returned to Willow.

"Was dinner fun?" Willow asked her.

"Yeah," Tara lied.

"Well, there's Scoobyage afoot. Giles called a meeting about our spankin' new menace."

"Oh ... y-you should go, they don't need me for that. You can fill me in."

"No, no, you have to come. This demon chick is supposed to be really powerful, and I was thinking. Maybe we could try that, that spell, you know, the one to find demons?"

"That didn't work," Tara reminded her.

"Yeah ... but we only tried it once, and I-I think I got some ingredients wrong," Willow replied.

"Well, I-I'm tired. Maybe we can do it tomorrow?" Tara asked her.

"You sure you don't wanna-" Willow tried, but Tara cut her off. "Look, my family's here, okay, I can't just...... Not everything is about your friends and stuff."

"Sorry," Willow uttered, turning to leave.

Tara changed tack. "No! No, I mean... There's just so much ... going on. It's just ... I'm, I'm really tired."

"Okay." Willow allowed.

"I'll see you in the morning. You can fill me in."

"Great. We'll be demon hunters," Willow agreed before leaving.

Tara waited for the door to close then sought out one of her books. She poured through the pages until she came across the right passage, then paused, thinking.

She wanted to tell them the truth. But any courage she might have had to do it had been washed away by the tidal wave that was her family. Her worse fears, fears that led her to take Wesley's advice and run from them, were telling her that it was better to conceal, until she could tell them without her family's interference.

After all, it was only until tomorrow night. Nothing would happen until then.

 


"Hey. Am I late? Did I miss any exposition?" Willow asked as she entered the shop some minutes later.

"No, no, no, no, nothing earth-shattering to relate," Giles replied. "I just have a few thoughts, and, uh, wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page."

"How's Tara?" Spike asked.

"I think her family dinner wore her out," Willow replied. "She begged off, pleading tiredness. I promised to fill her in tomorrow."

Spike nodded in acceptance and then disappeared into the stock cupboard.

"Well, first of all, I want to talk to you about," Giles trailed off, his eyes on Elita, who was examining one of the books. "Safety. Um, this creature could be...."

"Will be," Buffy corrected.

"Will be coming after Buffy, and possibly all of us," Giles continued.

At the rear of the shop, hidden behind the curtain that screened the training room, Tara crouched, watching them. "Blind Cadria," she whispered, "desolate queen, work my will upon them all. Your curse upon them, my obeisance to you." She held up her hand and blew upon it. Red dust flowed out of her palm drifting into the shop floor.

"Now, I may have a lead on this monk that Buffy spoke of," Giles continued. "There, there are a few orders that I've read up on....."

The red dust turned yellow, sending out rays, striking all of the slayerettes, making them flinch.

"I'm sorry, where was I?" Giles asked.

"The monk," Buffy prompted.

"Yes, I'd like us all to start looking at these orders, It's possible whichever one this monk belonged to wasn't wiped out entirely..."

His voice faded out of hearing to Tara as she quietly left the shop via the back door.

 


Her walk back to her dorm was uneventful and conducted alone, until she encountered her cousin. "Beth, what are you....."

"I was looking for you," Beth replied nervously.

"I'm sorry we didn't get to have dinner," Tara said.

"I just ... wanted to see if everything was okay. See if you needed any help with anything. Packing."

Tara's smile fell from her face. "Beth, I'm not, I'm n-not coming back with you."

"You're not?" Beth sought to confirm.

"I-I don't think so."

"You ... selfish bitch!" Beth said suddenly.

"What?!" Tara responded, shocked.

"You don't care the slightest bitty bit about your family, do you? Your dad's been worried sick about you every day since you've been gone. There's a, a house that needs taking care of ... Donny and your dad having to do for themselves while you're down here living god knows what kind of lifestyle. I can't wait till your little friends find out the truth about you. And they will, you know. No matter how innocent you act, they'll see."

"No they won't." Tara objected.

"They will. Unless you ... do some kind of spell on them ....You did!"

"N-no!" Tara protested.

Beth didn't believe her. "You did something to them. I'm telling your father."

"No! No, it wasn't anything!"

"You think you can just go around cursing people? Your dad's gonna pop."

"It was just so they wouldn't see," Tara revealed. "So-so-so they wouldn't see the demon part of me. Please don't tell Dad. It's harmless."

"Don't you see how out of control you are? You've been lying to these people for a year, and now you've put a spell on them, is that right? Is that a human thing to do? Now I'm telling your father. If he doesn't force you to come home, and I think he should, I know he's going to tell your friends the truth. If I were you, I'd tell them first. And then I'd tell them goodbye."

With that she walked away, leaving Tara with only once choice before her. She turned and began to run back to the Magic Shop.

 


At the shop, Willow rose up from her seat to answer a knock at the door. But when she opened it, the apparently empty night street glanced at back her. Confused, she turned and closed the door.

Behind her three Lei-Ach demons grinned in anticipation of the big kill which awaited them.

"Do I get paid overtime for this?" Anya asked Spike as she passed by the stock cupboard.

"Certainly not," Spike replied.

Giles looked up from the book he was studying. "Elita, would you close the door?"

"I didn't open it," Elita protested.

In the training room, Buffy and Angel were in the middle of his Tai Chi training until suddenly she felt her 'spider-sense' tingle in alertness. Rapidly she turned round and blocked an apparently thin air attack.

Angel turned in time to encounter the second block of nothingness, and found himself involved in the fray as well.

"Giles!" Buffy cried out, realising they needed backup of the magical detecting kind. "Something's in here!"

Giles and Xander rose from the table, the former rushing to the training room door, only to be met with resistance. Suddenly he flew backward, hitting the floor, his hand rising up as if to try and prise something from his throat.

The other rose from their seats, Willow grabbing a chair and striking the area above her best friend. Xander sighed in relief as the shock faded away.

"Where'd it go?" Anya asked.

Willow turned around, and suddenly it was her turn to fly forward.

Giles pushed Elita underneath the desk, glad that Jenny was home looking after Ellis. "Under there, go."

Spike emerged from the stock cupboard door that led into the training room, to find Buffy and Angel fighting two demons.

"Anything I can do to help?" He asked them.

"You can see them?" Buffy asked as she punched the air again.

"Of course, can't you?"

"No!" Buffy replied. "Any idea what they are?"

"Lei-Ach by the looks of them," Spike replied. "Just pound the buggers until you kill them. I'll go and help the others."

He walked out into the shop to find the others staring around.

"Where'd it go?!" Anya asked.

In response Giles suddenly reeled back from a punch.

"It's over there!" Xander stated.

"How many are there?" Giles asked.

"Three," Spike replied as Buffy entered, having despatched her first. "Shut up!" She ordered, as she sought to detect the third through silence.

Tara entered the shop. "Buffy, behind you!"

"Tara, where is it? Can you see it?" Buffy asked as she turned round.

"Oh, god." Tara uttered as the demon punched Buffy in the face. Spike rushed to the slayer's aid as Tara prepared to lift her spell. "Blind Cadria, lift your veil. Give evil form... and break my spell."

The demon growled at her and punched her, before turning back to the slayer.

Angel emerged from the back room, his demon dead, as the Maclays entered from the front, just in time to see the Slayer, blind no longer, start in earnest her fight with her second attacker.

"Tara!" Mr Maclay cried in concern, attracting the demon's attention. He turned and paused from attacking the slayer to send him to the floor.

Buffy saw the opportunity and took it, catching the demon unawares with swift punches to his stomach. He doubled over as she executed a tight backflip over his body, and then grabbed him by the back of the neck, snapping the bone.

Giles helped Elita out from her hiding place.

Mr Maclay rose from the floor. "What in god's name is that?" He asked.

"Lei-Ach demon," Spike replied. "Fun little buggers. Big with the marrow-sucking."

"I don't understand," Mr Maclay said.

"I'm not sure I do either," Buffy uttered, looking at Tara.

"I'm sorry. I'm s-s-so sorry," Tara sniffed, as Spike knelt beside her. "I was, I was trying to hide. I didn't want you to see ... what I am."

"Tara, what?" He asked her.

"What do you mean, what you are?" Buffy asked.

"Demon," Mr Maclay answered. "The women in our family... have demon in them. Her mother had it. That's where the magic comes from. We came to take her home before... well, before things like ... this started happening."

"You cast a spell on us, to keep us from seeing your ... demon side," Giles realised. "That's why we couldn't see our attackers."

"Nearly got us killed," Buffy added.

"I'll go," Tara replied, scrambling to her feet. "I'm very sorry."

"The camper's outside," Mr Maclay added helpfully.

"Wait! Go?" Willow queried. "She just did a spell that went wrong. It was just a mistake."

"That's not the point and it's not your concern. She belongs with us. We know how to control her ... problem," Mr Maclay informed them.

"Tara?" Willow asked softly. "Well, do you wanna leave?"

"It's not your decision, young lady," Mr Maclay interrupted harshly.

"I know that!" Willow replied sharply. "Do you wanna leave?" she repeated to Tara more softly.

Beyond speaking, Tara could only shake her head.

"You're going to do what's right, Tara," her father directed. "Now, I'm taking you out of here before somebody does get killed. The girl belongs with her family. I hope that's clear to the rest of you."

"It is," Buffy replied, startling everyone. "You want her, Mr. Maclay? You can go ahead and take her." She turned round to face him, hands on her hips. "You just gotta go through me."

Tara looked up from her grief to stare at the group, hope beginning to grow in her soul.

"What?" Her father queried incredulously.

"You heard me," Buffy replied. "You wanna take Tara out of here against her will? You gotta come through me."

"And me," Cordelia replied, coming to stand beside her.

"Is this a joke? I'm not gonna be threatened by two little girls."

"You don't wanna mess with us," Cordelia added.

"She's a hair-puller," Buffy informed him.

"And you're not just dealing with, uh, 'two little girls,'" Giles added, coming to stand behind her.

"You're dealing with all of us," Xander added.

"This is insane. You people have no right to interfere with Tara's affairs. We... are her blood kin! Who the hell are you?" Mr Maclay asked.

"We're family," Buffy replied, making Tara smile.

"Daaad," Donny drawled. "You gonna let 'em just... Tara, if you don't get in that car, I swear by god I will beat you down."

"And I swear by the lineage of the slayer, you're gonna break something trying," Angel replied.

"Well. I hope you'll all be happy hanging out with a disgusting demon," Beth remarked.

Anya raised her hand. "Excuse me. What kind?"

"What?" Beth asked.

"What kind of demon is she? There's a lot of different kinds. Some are very, very evil. And some have been considered to be useful members of society."

"Well, I-I ... what does it matter?" Beth countered.

"Evil is evil," Mr Maclay added.

"Well, let's just narrow it down," Anya decided.

"Ohhh," Spike groaned, "why don't I make this simple?" He tapped Tara on the shoulder, making her turn to him once more. When she did, he punched her, making her reel back and clutch at her injured nose, just as his chip kicked in, making him clutch at his head. "Oww!!"

"Hey!" Willow cried, then suddenly realising began again. "Hey..."

"You hit my nose!" Tara cried at Spike.

"And it hurt! Him, I mean," Willow added.

"And that only works on humans," Buffy revealed to the shocked Maclays.

"There's no demon in there," Spike added, his pain subsiding. "That's just a family legend, am I right? Just a bit of spin to keep the ladies in line." He smirked. "Oh, you're a piece of work. I like you."

"I'm not a demon?" Tara sought to confirm.

"You're not a demon," Spike assured her.

"You hurt my nose," Tara added, smiling at him.

"Yeah, you're welcome," Spike replied, smirking at her.

"Mr. Maclay, I would say your business here is finished," Giles announced.

"Tara," her father called her to face him. "For eighteen years your family has taken care of you and supported you. If you wanna turn your back-"

She stopped him. "Dad ... just go."

The Maclays turn and headed for the door. Her father paused on the threshold. "Magic," he uttered in disgust.

Beth gave her cousin a dirty look. "Are you happy now?"

Tara smiled as she watched them go, her feelings clear to her new 'family.'

 


Her happiness continued as she walked with her 'family' to the Bronze, which Xander had closed off to all other night-clubbers but themselves for the night. Tara couldn't help but smile as she received a crystal ball from Giles and a broom from Elita, amongst other birthday gifts.

Or as she tried to explain to Anya the essence of her joke. "No, see, 'cause your insect reflection represents your insignificance... in terms of the karmic cycle."

Anya nodded in understanding. "But it's still not funny." She paused, then asked. "So what's an eagle reflection?"

Tara was saved from replying by her first rescuer coming towards them. "May I have this dance?"

"Sure," Tara replied, taking his hand and letting him lead her to the floor.

"I still feel that I'm indirectly to blame for all of this," Wesley confessed as he swayed with her to the music.

Tara shook her head in protest, her hair brushing against his suit. "I would have had to face them sooner or later. Actually, I should be thanking you."

"For what?" He asked her.

"If you hadn't given me the confidence to run away, I might never have found Buffy and the others," Tara replied. "I would never feel what I'm feeling right now."

"And what's that?"

"Like I've finally found my place in the world."

"I know what you mean," Wesley replied, his eyes on the slayerettes clustered around the pool table for a moment, before returning to her as they continued to dance.

 


"How's your nose?"

Tara looked up, startled back to reality from her thoughts by the last person she had expected to see. "Just a little tender, I think," she replied.

"May I join you?" Spike asked, indicating to the empty space in the booth beside her, where she sat down for a rest while everyone else played pool or took to the dancefloor. His voice seemed different to her. It was softer, like just after he had dealt the blow that had solved once and for all whether she was human or demon. If she did not know any better, she would say that he seemed nervous. "Sure."

Spike sat down next to her on the soft furnishings. Tara turned her head to look at him carefully. "Are you all right?" She asked him.

"Yeah, the pain goes away. It always does." He paused for a moment. "I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"Hitting you."

"There's nothing to apologise for," Tara assured him, surprised that he wanted to. "You solved the problem for everyone concerned."

"Wouldn't have mattered either way."

"What?" Tara asked quietly, puzzled as to his meaning.

"Even if you had been a demon, we still would have fought for you. Kept you here."

"But I thought...." she trailed off in confusion.

"Well, its like Buffy said. We're family. Besides, Angel used to be a vampire before being cursed with a soul and then granted redemption. Doyle's part Bracken demon, Oz is a werewolf three nights of the month, and Anya is a former vengeance demon. So, even if you had been a demon, it wouldn't have mattered. We all know that the world is never black and white. Just shades of grey."

Tara nodded, silent as she ingested all of this information once more. She had learned everything nearly a year ago, but the deeper meaning behind it had never struck her until now.

Spike spoke again. "Personally, I'm glad you're not a demon. Didn't want that fate for both of us."

She looked up at him, startled. He reached out to cup her cheek. "Does your nose still hurt?" He asked softly.

"I don't think so." She replied, unable to look away. He leant forward and kissed it tenderly. She blushed as he drew back, only to lean forward again, with a change in destination. As he touched her lips with his, she felt this day turn from good, to perfect.

From the dancefloor, Buffy happened to look up and see what she would have thought the unlikeliest couple to ever come together, locked in an embrace. She smiled as her own former vampire wrapped his arms around her and kissed her hair. They gazed at the couple for a minute more then turned away, and left them to their own private world.

The End.
To Be Continued In

A Mundane Life.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: I've made it a relationship episode, focusing on their personal lives, rather than slaying, which I felt needed to be done as I had neglected them all of late. Also, a lovely B/A scene for you. Enjoy.

A Mundane Life.

"You're early," was the abrupt response which the slayer found herself greeted with from her and Angel's resident house guest when she was prevented from entering the Mansion after returning home one early evening.

"Spike!" Buffy exclaimed as he closed the front door behind him, leaving them to conduct their conversation outside. "Why are you barring me from the house?"

"Don't rail at me, it's all Peaches idea," Spike replied with what could only be described as leering grin. "He's got something special planned."

Buffy regarded him with critical brown eyes. "What did I tell you about insulting your grandsire?"

Spike pretended to think for a moment. "Er, to do it with originality and flair?"

The slayer glared at him. "Careful. I can always insist you join us."

He grinned. "Come on, Slayer. You know playing gooseberry would be more fun for me than either of you two. Besides I've got my own date tonight."

"I wondered why you were all smart," Buffy said as she took in the stylish trousers and jacket in charcoal grey, a contrast to his bleach white blond hair, topped off with a crisp white shirt. "You better treat Tara right. She's one of the good guys."

"I will, don't worry. Even if your threats are a tad lacking at present."

"I can always ban Passions." Buffy grinned as the chipped vampire before her acquired a look of outrage.

"You wouldn't dare," Spike cried.

"Try me."

"You wouldn't know how."

"I know how to install the parental lock," Buffy informed him. "Think my threats are empty now?"

"You're a cruel woman," Spike replied before opening the door a little as Angel's voice could be heard from the kitchen.

"Yes, she's back," Spike replied. Due to the large expanse of land which the Mansion covered, it's owner's tones were only audible to vampires. But even so, the one at the other end of the ground floor had to strain to hear him. "You want me to do what?" Spike asked. He nodded in understanding a few moments later, while Buffy remained confused and puzzled by all this mystery of her soulmate.

"Right," Spike began, turning to face the Slayer. "Angel requests that you go inside and upstairs, where you will change into the new dress he has laid out for you." Spike grinned at her curious expression. "Then you may go downstairs and into the dining room."

"Thank you, Spike," Buffy returned as he stepped aside to let her enter the Mansion at last. From the other end of the house wondrous smells drifted to her olfactory senses. Allowing herself a brief indulgence Buffy inhaled them deeply before making her way upstairs to the master suite she shared with Angel.

A deep royal purple gown awaited her on their bed, with a scooped front and low back, no sleeves, only straps. Smiling, she quickly shed her practical college girl blouse and skirt for the silken feel against her smooth skin. To finish off the ensemble she choose her cross necklace that had been his first gift to her and strappy silver shoes.

She found the dining room alit with the light of a thousand candles, their gentle flames casting a soft glow over the long mahogany table set for two. Buffy silently admired all the trouble that her soulmate had gone to when she sensed that she was no longer alone. Turning round she encountered Angel's brooding gaze from his stances at the threshold of the kitchen. He had gone for the classic black suit and white shirt, his black bow tie hanging undone around his neck. Few men could pull off the look and he was one of them in Buffy's opinion.

Buffy smiled at him. "What's the occasion?" She asked him as she walked towards him, swinging her hips as the dress showed off every inch of her curves, making him swallow hard as he summoned all his half vampire control to keep himself from taking her up against the door right there and then.

"Do I need one?" He countered, taking her hands in his as she stood before him. Mesmerised his dark eyes took in every facet of her glory, admiring how well her long blond tresses contrasted with her tanned skin and purple dress. Unable to resist he took her in his arms and captured her lips with his.

These were truly the happy times of their love, where there were no obstacles, no limits, no one and nothing to come between them. Where all the trials and heartache were long behind them, and the only thing which lay ahead was his eventual complete Shanshu into mortality. Somehow a certain normality had settled upon them and they could experience a truly healthy and ordinary relationship, even with the slaying.

Wishing to wine and dine her first, Angel reluctantly parted from her lips and led her to the table. Installing her in one of the chairs, he bowed and then disappeared into the kitchen to return a moment later with the first course.

Elegant and gentle piano music stemmed from the entertainment system as the couple partook of Angel's sumptuous meal. The romance of the evening contrived to make them forget the present big bad which had occupied their minds since the Slayer's first encounter with the woman in the red dress. Conversation consisted of nothing but speculation as to how the other slayerettes were amusing themselves and aspects of their past which the other had been previously unaware of.

Opportunities for a night like this had been few and far between since they agreed to let Spike move from Jenny and Giles' apartment into the Mansion. Along with their other more recent house guest, Elita, slaying and their sperate university lives, time for just the two of them had become a precious commodity.

"Where is Elita?" Buffy asked before taking a sip of her drink.

"Giles offered to invite her to his and Jenny's for tonight," Angel replied.

"You didn't need to go to this much trouble," Buffy uttered, gazing around once more at the candles, soft music and sumptuous food.

"Yes I did," Angel said softy. He took her hand and put it to his lips. Tenderly he turned it over to kiss her palm and then her wrist, until a sigh erupted from her mouth. "We haven't had much time for our relationship lately, and I wanted to give us an evening to relish it once more. To celebrate how far we've come." His fingers began to stroke the still captured hand. "I mean, nearly three years ago, did you think that we'd be living together and I'd be almost completely human?"

"No," Buffy acknowledged. "I didn't. But I remember correctly, I was still trying to convince you that we could be together. You were all doom and gloom and brooding." She smiled at him. "Not that it wasn't sexy. Still is," she added with a grin.

"We're approaching that normality you wanted," Angel added.

"Yeah," Buffy accepted. "Turns out though, I didn't really want normality. I wanted us, for ever. And we have that." She gripped his hand then let go to return to her meal. "I couldn't ask for anything more."

 


Spike paused only for a moment after Buffy left him to obey Angel's request, half looking through the front door glass after the slayer, half staring at the transparent pane as if it's nothingness would suddenly present him with a reflection of his appearance. After over two hundred years he was sceptical of such an event, but he had learned during that time that anything was possible.

If someone had told him where he would be right now that night Druscilla had made him a vampire, he probably would have killed them on the spot. Two hundred years had transformed him from a sadistic monster into a man who was nervous about a first date. It was his old soul who was awkward around women, not he.

Tara was different however. Almost from the first moment he knew her, she had treated him differently from the rest. While Xander had helped him- on the orders of the slayer -to escape the Initiative, the rest of the Scoobies, once they had let him in on Operation 314, had treated him with the suspicion he had earned from St Vigieous, Halloween, and the rest. Doubtless someone had filled Tara in on what he did to the Scoobies nearly two years ago. But it had not altered her opinion of him. He had punched her in the face, yet still she was dating him. Perhaps that did not speak well of her, yet Spike believed it did. Like the slayer and his grandsire, Tara had given him a second chance when she presented him with his chained talisman to protect him from the deadly rays of the sun during the summer. He had returned that favour when he trusted her humanity in the face of her family's belief in her demonic heritage.

And this new relationship had been the result. Something was created between them during their time together which neither of them could ignore. Spike had been witness to the love which developed between his grandsire and the slayer, but he did not expect one to occur for himself. Angel had a soul, while he only had a microchip to make him conform to society's morals and behaviour. Which was the more remarkable, Spike did not know.

Shrugging this question aside and trusting the correctness of his appearance on the judgement of the slayer, Spike climbed into his Desoto Sportsman and drove off to the university campus dorms.

Parking in the lot by the Residence Hall, Spike took care to avoid Lowell Frat House on his way to Tara's dorm. Even though the Initiative was now disbanded and the building had undergone a complete overhaul during the summer, Spike and the Slayerettes still distrusted the assurance from the university governing body that the underground complex was destroyed and rendered inaccessible.

He arrived promptly and one knock on the door brought Tara into his view. She was in her usual blouse and skirt, but more dressy than those reserved for college lectures. Her expression was her traditional nervousness, but in Spike's eyes she looked beautiful.

"Hey," he said from his leaning position on the wall opposite, which due to the narrowness of the corridor, brought him nearer to her anyway.

"Hi," she replied.

Spike offered her his arm and they walked through the dorms to his car.

"Where are we dining?" She asked as he opened the door for her.

"Wolf in Sheep's Clothing," Spike replied before closing the door and walking round to get into the driver's side. Since his new immunity against the sun the Desoto had undergone an almost total refit, replacing the blacked out windscreen and rearview with fresh panes transforming the car into road worthy capability.

The restaurant was in the good part of town, a few miles away from the campus and a local haunt for the more bookish students, with its soft light and quiet ambience lending an air of sophistication, despite it's rather unusual, yet oddly appropriate name.

They were showed to their reserved table and a brief silence ensued between them as they studied their menus. Their order was soon taken, leaving no further barriers between them.

Spike's first question rather surprised her, although his tone indicated that he already knew the answer.

"You and Wesley dated, didn't you?" he asked.

Tara nodded. "How did you know?"

"He seemed to know more about you than everyone else, including your family." He paused to change his tone to one of quiet understanding. "What happened?"

"I met him through a local demon hunt case," Tara began. "He heard the gossip about my family and we used to have long talks whenever I could get away from them. I suppose I found him easy to talk to because he knew about demons and was a stranger. He encouraged me to leave them and suggested this place as a possible destination. He gave me the confidence to get away. We split when my family assigned him to find me." She sighed. "He was never sure if I was human. It wasn't a healthy relationship."

"I've had them," Spike sympathised knowingly. "Dru and I weren't exactly the conventional either."

"I've heard about her," Tara remarked. "Was she really.... disturbed?"

"Certifiably insane," Spike replied. "Peaches- Angelus I mean, drove her mad before he sired her. Killed all of her family, sent her to a nunnery. He was one of the old ones. Always originality in the kill. Me I just went for a straight fight. Quick and painless." He took a sip of his drink. "Sorry."

"It's alright," Tara assured him. "I think I need to adjust to this, if we're dating."

Spike grinned. "Sounds kinda weird, doesn't it?"

"Oddly no," she returned, much to his surprise. "But then we're not the first."

"True," he agreed, as their first course arrived.

"Buffy said the gang had a hard time accepting her and Angel," Tara said as she began to eat her meal.

"Well, I wasn't there for all of it, I only came to town after everyone knew he was a vampire," Spike replied. "I think the hard time was mostly due to Xander's jealousy, and when Angel lost his soul. Everyone wasn't prepared to see her viewpoint of saving him by recursing him. They wanted her to kill him. And Buffy was losing the love of her life. I think it was a hard time for all of them. Buffy was more mature than them, due to the slaying. That time they spent growing up fast. Too fast." He paused to take a bite of his meal. "If they hadn't had a whole airing of issues before he returned from hell, I don't think they would have had a smooth time of it. Well as smooth as one can have, living on the hellmouth."

"Do you think that's something we'll face?" Tara asked, as her mind recalled Wesley's reaction to her interest in Spike, and whether it was just from jealousy, or a natural distaste for vampires due to his profession.

"I don't know," Spike replied solemnly. "I warn you now, my unlife hasn't been a walk in the park. There were, are, many things I did which I regret, and which you're gonna find hard to accept."

"I guess the question is, do I think we're worth it?" Tara mused.

"And do you?" Spike asked.

Tara smiled. "So far."

 


"Wesley Wyndam-Pryce," the former watcher introduced himself, rising from the chair at the table, holding out his hand for his new client to shake.

"Noémie Wyatt," the woman replied, shaking his hand. Wesley gestured silently to the other chair, and she sat down opposite him.

"I must say I'm surprised," Wesley began.

"Really, why?" She asked as she sorted out her napkin.

"I've never had a client request to hold the meeting at a restaurant before," Wesley replied. "Nor pay me so much for a nothing more than a dinner date."

"And yet you agreed," Noémie remarked. "Does that not say something about you?"

"It could say many things," Wesley returned. "I may not have had a decent meal in months. I wanted a place with witnesses to meet someone who I didn't trust. Or I haven't had a date since I arrived in Sunnydale."

"And which of these would be true?" She asked as she took up her wine glass.

"Any one of them," Wes replied. "Even all of them. Ultimately I have to ask, however; why did you want a date?"

"A client must be allowed to have some secrets, however far privilege spreads," Noémie said.

"You've yet to reveal to me what exactly you require my services for," Wes reminded her as someone came and handed them the menu.

"Yes I have," she replied.

Wes looked at her for a moment before realising. "A date?"

"Exactly."

"Couldn't a dating agency have served better?"

"Do you know of one in this town?" She smiled. "Seriously, I wanted a date. Not because of who I am, but of what I am."

"I don't understand."

"What do you know of Faustian deals?" Noémie asked him.

"Faustian deals; 'originated by a German astronomer and necromancer called Faust or Faustus who died around 1540. Reputed to have sold his soul to the Devil in return for knowledge and power, he became the subject of many legends and was the subject of a drama by Goethe, a play by Christopher Marlowe, an opera by Gounod, and a novel by Thomas Mann,'" Wesley quoted from memory. "Recent studies have since discovered that he became a immortal demon, and now offers the same deals to other humans and ................ demons," he finished, his pause taken in sudden understanding.

Noémie nodded. "I wanted to experience humanity. My immortality was my price."

Wes took a long sip of his wine. "How much did he give you?"

"A year."

"And you haven't had a date in all that time?"

Noémie shook her head. "Have you any idea how hard it is to cram all of humanity into one year? Very hard. I've been on planes, and boats, all forms of transport. I've been around the world. I've explored every piece of food known to man, I even went to college to experience education. I toured all continents to visit all forms of civilisation. Having a date seemed inconsequential until I had seen what else humanity had to offer."

"So you did not want to experience love?"

"What use would I have for love that only lasted a year? How is someone meant to experience something which is worth a lifetime in three hundred and sixty-five days?"

"Some would say that love is love, no matter how short a period one experiences it for. That a year of love is worth it compared to a lifetime without it."

"True," she allowed. "But how could I inflict the pain of my loss on the person I loved? They may think it worth the sacrifice, but I do not."

"You are definitely unlike few demons I have met," Wesley remarked.

"I'll take that as a compliment."

"It is, believe me." He sipped his wine. "So, if you'll forgive me for asking, what about the physical side of dating?"

"You mean sex? Oh, I've done that. It is a regret though. Humans lack the endurance for demonic satisfaction."

Wesley had difficulty producing a noncommittal reply to her remark, delivered without blush or embarrassment, almost the attitude of a scientist on test project. "Oh."

"Yes," Noémie smiled at his chagrin. "I would need a slayer, but they are women, and I chose to be that sex."

Wesley took a long slow sip of his drink, as a part of him mused that he had just learned a piece of information he did not need to know about the slayer. "Do you mean you were male demon?" He asked her.

" Actually I was neither," Noémie replied, "and both, if that makes sense." She took a bite of her meal. "But I did not call you to talk shop."

"Then what shall we talk about?" Wes asked her.

"Anything and nothing," Noémie answered. "I've spent too much of the year debating about philosophy, politics, history. You name it, I have talked about it."

"You sound almost weary of life," Wes commented.

"I am a little. I think I tried to experience too much all at once. But if I could go back, I wouldn't undo my decision."

 


Oz gazed at the cloudless night sky one more time. Despite his talisman being one year old, he still felt antsy the night of a full moon and the nights preceding it. The wolf inside him was contained, but he could still hear it's howl, still feel it's pulse beating in time to his own, still feel those primal instincts within, calling to him to listen. He still felt restless during those three nights, unable to sleep and ravenous for something more than what normal human existence offered.

Willow had told him that if he accepted the talisman, her birthday present to him, these feelings would lessen and eventually disappear. But he could not. A part of him still felt guilty for the circumstances in which he earned the charm; the night after he and Veruca discovered their mutual hidden werewolves. Though he had not cheated on Willow, he still felt that night was an act of betrayal. And he could remember her emotions when he confessed to her all which had occurred, could still visualise the expression on her face, could still hear, or rather not hear the silence she had maintained until they told the slayer. Though she had never said, he felt he had still hurt her that day.

"Penny for your thoughts," her voice said now, arousing him from his reverie. He turned, his fingers still fiddling with his talisman, to find her beside him, watching them, and his face, observing the emotions through the stoic mask.

"No thoughts," he replied, "just musings."

Willow's eyes followed his fingers movements. "You still feel guilty, don't you," she said. It was not a question.

"Yes," he confessed. "I don't deserve this, Will."

"I think you do," Willow objected. "Oz, you didn't betray me," she added, taking his hands from the talisman before they broke the chain. "You ignored her attractions, even when you were wolfy."

"I still spent the night by her side," Oz protested. "I still woke up next to her, not you."

"But you didn't mate with her," Willow returned. "Why can't you see that distinction?"

"The temptation, the desire was there."

"But you resisted," Willow replied. "That tells me you cared for me far more than the desire."

"Did we do the right thing?" Oz asked, still gazing at the moon. "Handing Veruca over to the Initiative?"

"I don't know," Willow confessed. "I half expected to find her when we commandeered the place, alive or...... not. There was little we could do however, short of putting her down ourselves."

"Her band split and moved away," Oz informed her. "I heard they regrouped some where on the east coast with a new vocalist. Whatever they did to her I hope it was kinder than what they did to others."

"Maybe they gave her a chip like Spike's," Willow suggested hopefully.

"Maybe," Oz allowed. He turned from the window to draw her to him. Softly he kissed her forehead, then kissed her lips as she lifted her mouth to his.

"Let's forget the moon," he said to her.

"Just what I've been trying to tell you," Willow replied before doing so as he kissed her again.

 


"Why do we have to go out?"

"I told you before, Anya," Xander replied, exasperated, "this is what couples do. Go out to fancy restaurants, eat fancy food, then go home."

"Why can't we skip the first part and stay your place and have sex?"

"A little louder, I don't think all the consumers of the fancy restaurant heard you," Xander returned sarcastically.

"I don't care," Anya returned, "I want us to have sex. We haven't had sex for ages."

"Anya, we've both been tied up with work," Xander replied.

"That's true," she nodded eagerly, "bondage is something we've yet to enjoy."

"Anya," Xander groaned and blushed as more of the people in the restaurant turned round to stare at them. "If you recall, this was your idea."

"I was thinking more candlelit cold dinner at your apartment," Anya replied.

"Why couldn't it be at your place?" Xander asked. "And why would it be cold? I do know how to cook, or rather, how to work a microwave."

"You know my landlady thinks I'm nice, innocent girl," Anya reminded him. "And the dinner would be cold by the time we got to it."

"Why did I ever agree to this?" Xander murmured to himself as the waiter gave them funny looks while serving the next course of their meal. Everyone else of the Scoobies were going out on dates, but it did not mean he should. He could have volunteered to babysit Ellis Giles and Elita whatever her last name was.

"Because I promised to be your slave," Anya replied with giggle, causing him to snatch the wine bottle away from her before she could refill.

"Relax, I'm not drunk," she informed him. "I lived in an age where alcohol was trusted before water," she added, receiving another strange look from a nearby passing waiter. "I could probably drink everyone in this hellmouth under the table."

"Still, let's stay off the liquor, shall we," Xander said, moving the wine bottle further away from her side to his. "Besides, if this night continues to be the worst night out of my life, I might just need all of it," he muttered to himself.

"Just for that, I'll take away the bondage offer," Anya remarked, her hearing catching his every word.

"Oh thank god," Xander murmured.

"You know, Xander, anyone would think you didn't want sex," Anya remarked, her tone taking on an insulted sound.

"I do," he replied, "I'd just prefer no one to hear that you want it."

"I want it? I'm only trying to be a good girlfriend by satisfying your needs of pleasure," Anya huffed. "Personally, sometimes it is too sweaty, too noisy, and too messy. Especially when you get too excited."

"Anya," Xander cried, as almost the entire restaurant turned from their meals to stare at them.

"Excuse me, sir?" One the waiters addressed him suddenly, making Xander jump.

"Yes?" He asked nervously.

"Would your partner mind keeping her conversation to polite topics, and a low decibel," the waiter requested.

"I'm sorry, we'll try to keep it down," Xander apologised.

"You see, this is another disadvantage of not having a cold candlelit dinner at your apartment," Anya remarked after the waiter had gone. "We can't talk about what we want to talk about."

"Anya, if we were having a cold candlelit dinner at my apartment, we still wouldn't be talking about this," Xander replied.

"True," she agreed. "Because we'd be doing it instead."

Xander groaned and glanced at the clock on the wall behind her, silently wondering how much longer this torturous dinner would continue.

 


"Poor Xander," Cordelia remarked softly to her dinner companion. Their table in the same restaurant was in such a position as for them to observe her former boyfriend and his girlfriend without being observed themselves.

"Couldn't agree with you more, Delia," Doyle replied, as he glanced at the quarrelling couple as well.

"You'd think he'd have learned by now, not to date demons," Cordelia added before returning to her meal.

"I take it then that Anya's not his first demon," Doyle inquired.

"No. Before her, there was a resurrected Incan Mummy girl, and a teacher who turned into a praying mantis."

Doyle laughed heartily. "How on earth did you two end up together?"

"It started with a lot of bickering," Cordelia answered, "which progressed into kissing in darkened closets until I broke up with him, whereupon he had Amy cast a spell to get me back. Only it went wrong, and made every other girl attracted to him but me. The girls wanted to kill me, and we ended up running away from them until the spell was undone, then I finally broke from the popular set and renounced myself to Scoobydom."

"And before him?" Doyle asked.

"Various popular boys, the lead of Oz's band. I entertained a brief crush on Angel before we all knew what he was and who he only had eyes for, even when he was unsouled." Cordelia paused. "What about you?"

"I was wondering when you'd ask this question," Doyle replied.

"Worried about how I'd react?" Cordelia asked him.

"Sort of."

"Well, whatever it is, it can't be as bad as that," she indicated Xander and Anya, whose fight had upped another decibel.

"They're gonna be thrown out soon," Doyle commented. "Well, I guess there's only one way for me to say it. I was married."

"Married?" Cordelia echoed his last word in shock. "Who to? And for how long?"

"Her name was Harriet; Harry," Doyle replied. "We fell in love, married, just before my father's inheritance started to show itself. I expected her to run screaming, which she did at first. Then she got interested and became an ethno-demonologist. But we were just kids when we married. Too young. Both of us respected each other, liked each other, but after we discovered my nature, the relationship became too hard. So we divorced a few months before I came to Sunnydale."

Cordelia reached across the table and took his hand in hers, giving it a gentle squeeze. "It must have been difficult," she said.

"It was," Doyle agreed, returning the gesture. "That's when I got into the drink. Then the visions hit me as well, which only sent me free falling even faster. Harry got over her freakout in time to pull me back from it, but the damage to us was already done. She's happily married now."

"So," Cordelia began uneasily, "do you think the Bracken genes will pass on?"

"Probably, though there's no way of knowing how powerful the strain will be," Doyle remarked. He looked at her carefully. "Why, something you couldn't face?"

"No," Cordelia replied, surprising him, "I happen to like your other face."

"You're a strange girl," he commented, but his words belied the tone of his voice, and the look in his eyes, indicating that he was touched.

 


"Rupert, did you bring home the Raufman Chronicles?" Jenny Calendar-Giles asked her husband as she wandered into the living room from their bedroom.

"Yes, here it is," Giles replied, unearthing the leatherbound volume from the large pile of similar ancient books which were scattered about him and handing it to her. When her hand did not reach out to take it, he looked up from the old text to see that her gaze was directed elsewhere. Turning in said direction, he saw Elita making cooing noises at Ellis, who was happily gurgling in her company.

"Who on earth could be after her?" Jenny asked him softly, and Giles found himself agreeing with her at this moment. They might have no idea who Elita was or who was supposedly after her, but in the short time she had been with the Slayerettes, none of them had failed to like her. She was four years younger than the slayer, though her youthful face made her appear almost childlike at times, black-advised and with startling green eyes. Quieter than Tara, yet seemingly more mature than the rest of them put together, though she also possessed a naiveté and innocence about her which few failed to find endearing.

"Have you found out anything on the girl who attacked Buffy?" Jenny asked him, arousing him from his reverie.

"No," Giles replied, turning to face her. "But then 'blond, red-dressed and Queen-C like' is not a helpful or informative description."

Jenny laughed. "Come on, Rupert. If you wanted Buffy to be more the dutiful slayer, she wouldn't be the girl you love like a daughter."

"That's true," Giles agreed. He sighed and glanced back at the book beneath his eyes. "I studied enough to conclude that it's likely to old, probably before written word."

"Which means more powerful than what we've faced before," Jenny guessed as she glanced at the text before him too.

"We'll overcome," Giles uttered, surprisingly confident.

"How do you know?" She asked him.

"We always do," he replied, kissing her.

 


"Thank you," Noémie said as she stood up from the table.

"Do you want me to escort you anywhere?" Wesley asked as he rose also after paying for the dinner date.

"No, thank you," she replied. "I know it's customary for a gentleman to walk a lady home after a date, but I'm afraid my time is almost over, and I would rather be somewhere that my passing does not shock the populous."

"Would I presume too much if I asked to bear witness to such an event?" Wesley asked. "I confess myself very intrigued by the whole thing."

"No, I think you deserve to see it," Noémie replied. "Do you know of somewhere that is unobserved by others where I may best go?"

"The woods I think would suit," Wesley answered, and offered his hand.

She took it, and let him lead her to them, not stopping until the darkness caused by the leaves of the trees surrounded them, darkening the moonlit night sky above.

"One more thing before I leave you," Noémie said as she let go of his hand and stepped a little away. "A warning. The slayer is facing a bigger challenge than she knows. A greater evil than you can ever imagine. She must win this fight, and you must all prepare her to do so, else the world will change into something darker than you have ever known."

"A greater evil?" Wesley echoed. "When will this arrive?"

"It already has," Noémie replied, and then she transformed into a brilliant white light, causing Wesley to hide his eyes until his lids felt darkness once more.

And when he opened them, she was gone.

 


"Like this?"

"No, like this," he replied, and smiled as she chuckled.

Dinner had long since ended at the Crawford Street Mansion, turning into the supper of old, elegant society, with a dance following. Angel was teaching his beloved how to waltz. Classical music suited to the dance echoed around the room from the sound system, punctuated by the slayer's soft laughter as he taught her the next step or position. Angel's hands clasped one of hers whilst the other was placed on the small of her back, just where the purple silk narrowed into a triangle to fall floor-length to the slate floor of the mansion. Her other hand gathered up a small part of this to give her feet room to move without tripping over the material.

Angel led her in small circles around the dance space before the table and chairs, smiling and laughing too in between gentle words of instruction. Her laughter was infectious, which together with her long blond locks caressing her smiling face and shimmering dark eyes was a bewitching combination. The fingers of his hand placed on her back could not resist mimicking the circles their feet made upon her soft skin, a touch which he guessed was also making her laugh.

Suddenly he dipped her, catching her by surprise. As he raised her back up, her hair swept about her shoulders, shielding them for a moment in a private world. Waltz lessons were forgotten as Angel kissed her lips. The hand clasping hers left to tangle itself in her blond hair, as his mouth opened to let her tongue duel with his.

Buffy moaned into his mouth, letting her now free hands roam underneath his dress jacket, questing for the buttons of his crisp white shirt. She arched into him as one of his hands slipped from her hair to stroke her skin through the clinging purple silk. Angel's hand spanned her side and slid up to the underside of her breast caressing the nipple into aching hardness behind the material.

Her own hands were by no means idle, as they undid shirt buttons to slip inside and stroke his bare chest. She grasped fistfuls of white material, shaking the shirt out of his trousers. Her fingers skimmed his waistline, searching for touches which made him pur, growl or groan.

They broke apart for air, whereupon she bent her head to kiss his taunt torso. She nipped and licked his skin, making him pur, growl and groan. In retaliation he cupped her breasts through the silk, his thumbs brushing her nipples into hardness until she groaned, the breath warm on his cold skin.
Surrendering, she lifted her head and gazed into his dark eyes. Then she stepped away, clasped his hands and led him through to the living room upstairs to their bedroom.

Inside he tossed off his jacket and let her peel away his shirt, his hands caressingly lingering from her hips to her neck before sliding the purple silk down her arms and gently off her wrists.

With the dress clinging to her waist, Angel drew Buffy close to him and kissed her again. The purple silk had sculpted her body in such a way as to leave no room for her bra, causing skin to touch skin during their long sensuous embrace. Despite his immunity to temperature, the startling contrast of her warm skin and the cold metal of the cross he had given her over five years ago caused him to shiver as he let her lead him forward to their bed.

Breaking their embrace once more she sank down to rest upon the sheets, her hands hooking themselves around the limits of his trousers as she finished undressing him. He lifted her up to finish peeling the purple silk away from her skin, taking her pants with it, before pushing her back down on to their bed.

Time passed slowly as they worshipped each other and both were grateful for that, as since the arrival of Elita and the troubles with the blond woman, they had been left little time to enjoy the pleasure of togetherness. Angel nipped tenderly at the scar of the bite he had given her, the healing powers of her destiny never quite eliminating it from her smooth skin. His hands caressed skin below, moving on when his lips replaced them, until they prepared her mound for his arrival, first with mouth and tongue and then his sex, joining them as one.

As for the slayer, she let herself forget her trials, sinking into the worship of her love, as he showed her the power of their unity, and the blessings of pleasure it produced, enriching her with the necessary strength and wisdom to defeat her enemies when they next showed themselves.


The End.
To Be Continued In

Amulets and Bloodstones.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: This is a rewrite of the original episode, Shadow, renamed because in mine Joyce doesn't die. Slight changes to eliminate that, Riley's absence and the changes I've made to other relationships, but apart from that, this follows the cannon plot. Enjoy.

Amulets and Bloodstones.


"'Your one-stop spot to shop for all your occult needs.'" Tara paused as she glanced at her boyfriend, debating on what to say. "Catchy," she settled on.

"Think so?" Spike asked her. "You can be honest, it was Giles' idea. I wasn't too sure about myself."

Tara nodded. "Uh-huh. In a ... hard to read sort of way, but I think it's great."

"Oh," Giles uttered as he caught the uncertainty in her tone.

"Hail, fellow workers," Xander greeted as he, Willow, Anya and Oz entered the Magic Shop. His girlfriend began straightening items on shelves, while he and the others made their way to the counter. "Whatcha looking at?"

"Oh, the-the new phone book's in with Spike's ad," Tara informed them.

Anya stopped what she was doing to rush round and see.

"Oh, nice," Willow uttered.

"Yay! Am I mentioned?" Anya asked as she looked at it.

"No, luv," Spike replied.

"Oh," Anya uttered in disappointment and returned to her previous occupation.

"Why are you all here?" Spike asked them.

"Research session," Xander replied. "G-man called us round this morning."

"Joy," Spike muttered.

"Well, I've exhausted all my tomes, you see," Giles explained, "in trying to discover the identity of Buffy's mysterious woman."

"Oh yeah, this has been fruitful," Xander commented. "Trying to look up something you ... never saw and don't know the name of."

"Just do what I do: flip through the pages and look busy," his girlfriend advised.

"It'd be nice if we knew where she was, where she's hiding out," Willow commented as she sat down at the big round table by the books.

"No doubt lurking around some sewer or condemned church or rat-infested warehouse," Xander remarked. "You know, the usual haunts."

"Hey," Spike glared at him. "We weren't all like that, mate. Some of us had standards. Like Peaches."

"Careful," Tara admonished gently. "Buffy's threatened to cut off Passions."

"Well, she's not here yet, and slayer hearing may be good, but it's not that good," Spike remarked. "Where are the chosen one and poof anyhow?"

"Lying in at the Mansion," Xander replied. "Apparently they have some 'paperwork' to do." His expression showed how little he believed that to be the real reason. "Said they'd be along later."

"Nice if you can get it," Spike commented. "We'll most likely toiling the dregs while they're living it up in that suite of theirs."

 


Meanwhile, the mysterious woman was lounging too, on a sumptuous bed of grand proportions, situated in a magnificently comfortable apartment, located on one of the hellmouth's more plush streets.

"Most beauteous and supremely magnificent one," her brown habit attired demon lackey simpered before the foot of the bed, an ancient column of parchment clutched in his hands, "this dark spell I hold in my worthless and scabby hand is our gift to you, most tingly and wonderful Glorificus..."

The woman paid him little curtesy, trying on a shoe. "Please, call me Glory. And get up, looking at you is hurting my neck."

Dreg rose immediately. "Forgive me, shiny special one. I beg of you to rip out my inadequate tongue."

Glory held out her hand. "Gimme."

Nervously Dreg advanced towards her, opened his mouth and held out his tongue. Glory grinned and grabbed the scroll instead.

"Oh. I thought... You should know, your elaborate marvelousness, that this dark incantation has been lost for eons..."

"Uh-huh," Glory uttered, trying on another shoe.

"And great dangers have been faced to..." Dreg continued.

Glory stuck her leg out to him. "Does this pump make my ankle look bony?"

Dreg was all compliments. "No! No, no, your terrifically smooth one, it is the epitome of ankles. To touch such an ankle would be," he cut himself off as he caught her glare. "But I'm not touching. I'm backing away."

Glory kicked out her leg, letting the shoe fly off her foot at his head.

"Ow! Thank you."

"Dreg, is it?" Glory asked as she rose up.

"Yes. Dreg. Your creamy coolness has honoured me by speaking my name. Your voice is like a thousand sweet songbirds that-"

Glory interrupted him, irritated. "Yeah, I never tire of hearing that. Look, just so we're clear, the spell's gonna work, right?" At his nod, she added, "I mean, nothing worse than a gift that doesn't work. Then I'd have to get all mad and kill you! It's this whole big thing."

"It will work, your extremeness. Provided you have the other items you need," Dreg assured her.

"Don't worry. I'll have them all right," Glory uttered.

She walked past him to where a copy of the town's phone book lay, opened to the page under M, for magic, among other things.

The advertisement for 5124 Maple Court, The Magic Box, caught her eyes the most. She tore out the page.

"I'll have it all," she uttered.

 


"Mmm, what time is it?" A voice sleepily asked as it's owner opened their eyes. An alarm started to ring in answer, causing her to groan and roll over, to smash the source of the offending noise.

A hand grabbed her wrist, halting her actions just in time. Another reached under her neck to press the snooze button on the alarm clock. "Careful," her soulmate admonished. "Or that'll be the third this year I've had to replace."

"Sorry, honey," Buffy replied, adjusting herself so she encased in the embrace of his body. Her expression however did not turn apologetic to suit her words, remaining in a relaxed, contented smile that spoke of deep satisfaction.

It was one Angel could not fail to return, as he gazed down at her. Last night had been a rare night off for the both of them, and they had thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. His hand left her wrist, his fingers caressing their way down her arm, until they reached her slender waist, before moving to stroke her slim belly, and then upwards to touch the silver cross which still hung around her neck. Nearly five years ago when he had given her that piece of jewelry, he had been careful not to touch it, handing it to her encased within a box, the spiritual power behind the symbol containing the ability to burn him. Now however, with his redemption half finished, and the combination of the enchanted talisman around his own neck, that power no longer harmed him, serving only to fascinate, as he marvelled the way it suited her tanned skin.

Buffy watched him gaze at her, never failing to be loved by the look in his dark eyes, seeing through their pupils into the soul she loved so much. She wanted to lose herself within him forever, for time to freeze them within this moment, if it was possible without causing the rest of the world to go to hell. But from their troubles they could only have a brief night of freedom.

Angel saw the intrusion of such make their appearance upon her beautiful face, and instantly wished he could make them go away. But it was her destiny, and he would not make her less than she was. He had fallen in love with every part of her, even the slayer deep within. Reluctantly he kissed her chastely, before rising to let her get up from the bed and begin the new day.

 


"I just wish we knew what we were dealing with," Willow uttered as she flicked a page of the volume she was studying. "It feels like we're going around in circles."

"Our circles are going around in circles," Xander agreed. "We've got dizzy circles here, Giles."

The former watcher was at the counter, attending to a customer whilst Spike was in the storeroom. "Ah, weeping Buddha, shoulders your spiritual burden. Makes a lovely paperweight too."

"Maybe she's not in the books," Tara remarked.

"What do you mean?" Oz asked.

"I mean, what if she's not a demon or sorceress or spirit or whatever these books cover? What if she's something else altogether?"

"Thank you, come again," Giles uttered, seeing the customer out, before turning to Tara. "Something new, you mean?"

"Tara shook her head. "Something old. So old it predates the written word."

"Giles, the Dragon sphere. You said that was created to repel.." Willow trailed off as she tried to recall.

"That which cannot be named," Giles answered thoughtfully.

Willow nodded. "So I'm thinking maybe she..."

"Predates language itself?" Giles finished her sentence.

"Well hey, if it means I don't have to read any more, woo!" Xander cried. "And might I add a big hoo!"

"If Tara's right, then we're blind. There's ... there's no way we can determine ... her moves, her habits, where she'll turn up next." He turned round, only to be confronted by another customer. "Oh! I beg your-"

The blond woman ignored his apology. "Uh-huh. I want these."

"Yes, of course!" Giles walked back to the counter. "Um, you find everything all right?"

"No problemo," the woman replied.

"That's, um...good," Giles handed her a piece of paper. "Your receipt. And thank you!"

The blond woman smiled as she walked out.

Giles returned to his previous train of thought. "She could be anywhere. But if she is as powerful as, uh, Buffy says, I imagine it won't be long before she makes herself known."

Spike walked out from the storeroom. "Everything alright?"

"Yeah, just two customers," Anya answered. "Giles dealt with them."

"Well, I hope he's not expecting to get paid," Spike commented. "Doing your job for you."

"I'm working," Anya protested.

"At what? I didn't hire you to reorganise my shelves."

"Well, someone should, they're in a mess."

"Fine, we'll go over them later," Spike growled. "Now, back behind the counter."

"Yey, overtime," Anya clapped her hands as she returned to the cash register.

"No, evening opening hours," Spike returned as the bell rang, signalling another arrival. "Oh, hey slayer. Peach- patriarch," he hurriedly corrected himself.

"Hey guys," Buffy greeted as she and Angel entered the shop. "How was Elita last night, Giles?"

"Oh, she was no trouble," Giles replied. "Looked after your godson all night. She's with Jenny now, helping her weekend computer class." He smiled. "Good night?"

"Oh yeah," Buffy answered, blushing, before turning to her friends. Behind her Angel smiled.

Spike smirked. "I'll say, if what I saw on my return home last night is any indication," he grinned at his sire.

"Anya, what happened on Passions last night?" Buffy asked casually, but with a look to her and Angel's resident house guest which was anything but.

"Oh, I wouldn't know, me and Xander were copulating," Anya replied, making the slayer wish she hadn't asked.

"Anya," Her boyfriend cried, red-faced. "It was bad enough in the restaurant last night," he murmured.

"Yeah, we saw," Cordelia said as she and Doyle entered the shop. The Irishman nodded in sympathy. "I think they threw them out before desert," he added.

"Hey," Anya cried.

"Anya, it's the truth," Xander reminded her.

"No," she cried, pointing to something on the counter. "Hey! HEY!"

"Anya, luv, your heys are startling the customers," Spike said.

"And pretty much the state," Xander added.

Anya ignored them as she looked at Giles. "You sold someone a Khul's amulet and a Sobekian bloodstone."

"Yes, I believe I did," Giles replied.

"Are you stupid or something?" Anya asked him.

"Allow me to answer that question with a firing," Giles returned.

"Hey, I fire my staff," Spike corrected. "Even those volunteering free of wage."

"She's kidding!" Xander cried. "An, we talked about the employee-employer vocabulary no-nos. That was number five."

Anya snatched the receipt. "He's not my boss. You never sell these things together, ever! Bad news! Don't you know about the Sobekites?"

"Oh! I do. It was an ancient Egyptian cult, heavy into dark magic," Willow informed them.

"And the Khul's amulet, wasn't that a transmogrification conduit?" Tara sought to confirm.

"Damn straight!" Anya cried.

"Be that as it may, I still see no reason for concern," Giles remarked. "I mean, the-the Sobekian transmogrification spells were lost thousands of years ago. And besides, the young woman to whom I sold them would have to have had enormous power......." he trailed off as he suddenly realised.

"Young woman?" Buffy echoed, looking at him. "Blond, flashy dresser?"

The watcher groaned. "Oh, dear lord."

"What?" Xander looked at them.

"Well done," Spike snapped. "I leave you, the foremost demonologist on the hellmouth in charge for five minutes, and you sell something to the resident demon after the slayer which can create a monster."

"I, I, I... I didn't know it was her!" Giles cried contritely. "I mean, how could I? If it's any consolation, I may have overcharged her."

"So what do these amulet and bloodstone do?" Buffy asked Anya.

"A few thousand years ago there was this cult, the temple of Sobek," the former vengeance demon replied. "Reptile demon. Sobekites were reptile worshippers."

"Just once I would like to run into a cult of bunny worshippers," Xander commented.

His girlfriend glared at him. "Great. Thank you very much for those nightmares."

Xander had the grace to look apologetic. "Sorry."
"Anyway, their high priest Khul had great mystic powers. He, um, forged an amulet with transmogrifying crystal."

"Transmogrifying is changing a living thing into a different kind of thing," Willow added.

Giles grabbed a book and searched through the pages until he found the item he had sold. "She's going to transmogrify a cobra."

"Okay, so she's making a monster. What for? What does it do?" Buffy asked.

Giles turned back to the book. "That's the part ... we're working on it."

"Well, you keep working on it, I'll go kill it."

"Buffy?" Giles called, making her stop.

"What? I'm going." Buffy affirmed.

"Buffy, this chick creamed you last time," Xander reminded her.

"That's because I wasn't ready for her last time. I am now."

"Don't worry, I'm going too," Angel added.

"But we don't know anything about it," Willow said worriedly.

"Will, I can't just sit here. I have to do something," Buffy replied, as Angel opened the door, before heading outside.

 


At the Sunnydale Zoo, where all had been quiet and normal since the disappearance of their Coyote expert, a woman and her monk lackey stalked the path to the reptile building, looking for their monster.

Glory punched her fist through the cage containing the cobra. She grabbed the coiling snake, who hissed at her for disturbing his previously quiet existence. She hissed back, unconcerned by the toxins within him.

"Chill, worm. I'm gonna make you a star!" Glory laughed as she deposited it into a large vase. Turning, she held out her hand to Dreg, who gave her the amulet she had purchased. She held it over the vase. "Chant!" She ordered.

"'The form is vessel, rendered new. The base is stone, bathed in blood. The gem is fire and elements rarefied...'" Dreg began, reading from the ancient scroll.

"Sobek, grant the power," Glory requested. "That it may mould this wretched creature ... that it may be reborn ... that it may serve ... ah! Dark incantations! Always overwritten! Why can't they just cut to the-"

Suddenly she was cut off, as something slammed her into the nearby wall.

"Fight?" Buffy queried as she kicked her in the face.

"No fair-" Glory paused as she was punched again, "attacking-" another pause as the slayer aimed a fist at her stomach and then her face, "when I wasn't even looking!"

Buffy grabbed her head and slammed it against the wall.

"Ow!" Glory grabbed her hand and returned the favour. "No, this is no good."

Buffy tried to rise and punch her again, but Glory grabbed her arm and pinned it behind her back. "I'm out of the moment..." Glory added as she braced herself against the slayer, "and you're not giving me anything I can use. Dreg! I'm not hearing chanting!" She punched Buffy in the face and slammed her against the wall.

"Yes, Glory." Dreg opened his mouth, but was cut off as Angel punched him to the floor. Silencing one, he went to help Buffy with the other.

"Hey, hey. Work with me here," Glory cried at Buffy, flinging her against a wall. Angel took the opportunity and grabbed the woman to fling her against the opposite wall.

"Hey!" Glory cried. "No champion knights allowed. No damsels in distress here." She punched Angel, sending him to the floor, before grabbing the slayer again. "There! That feels more real, don't you think?"

She flung her into the wall once more before grabbing her by the throat. "Even if I do have to carry your performance."

Suddenly her hand was wrenched off the slayer, as Angel grabbed it and slung it behind her back. The floor had knocked his game face into the fore, and he growled at her before dislocating the joint.

"Scene!" He growled, before flinging her across the floor and retrieving his beloved.

Dreg meanwhile, had recovered enough to chant. "Cir hayyan win-hud!"

Glory got up and walked to the vase. "Arise. Arise."

"Cir hayyan win-hud!" Dreg repeated.

"Arise!" Glory yelled.

The vase shook, then exploded as a creature burst out of it; a large cobra snake with arms, hissing and swaying.

Dreg stated the obvious. "He is arisen!"

"About damn time!" Glory grinned. "Spawn of Sobek!"

The creature turned to her, lowering its head so she could touch it. "The power is yours ... to see what is unseen. To find what is shrouded in shadow. Already, you know what I seek. I have given you form, now find for me the key. Seek it out in the holy places. Yes, yes, yes! Let your vision guide you to its hiding place, and then return to me and tell me where it lies."

Unseen behind, Angel and Buffy quietly stumbled out of the Zoo.

"Now would be good." Glory urged.

The cobra turned away to hunt.

"Fun, fun, fun!" Glory giggled.

Outside, Angel helped Buffy to his car. "How bad are you?" He asked her.

"On a scale of one to ten; twenty," Buffy replied, groaning as she sat down. "But I'll be okay. What about you?"

"I'm all right, I think," Angel replied. "We better get to the Magic Box. Elita and Jenny have probably gone there by now."

"Step on it," Buffy ordered tiredly, sinking back into the leather as Angel put the vehicle in gear and drove away.

 


"Aleister Crowley Sings?" Spike echoed a customer's request. "Um, sadly, no, I-I don't carry that, but I do have some whale sounds." He held up the CD.

Giles stopped researching to answer his cellphone. "Buffy, are you and Angel all right?" He asked anxiously.

"No, I'm really not," Buffy replied. "I-I couldn't stop her. I couldn't even slow her down."

"Where are you?" Giles asked.

"Sunnydale Memorial, Angel's fetching me an ice pack or six."

"Are you badly hurt? I'll come right over."

"No. No, I-I just wanted to warn you that that thing she conjured, it's loose - it's a big snake thing. Not mayor big, but it's pretty lethal looking."

"Do you know why she raised it?" Giles asked.

"I don't know yet." Buffy replied.

"I'll warn the others. We'll get weapons, we'll fan out-"

"Wait," Buffy cut him off. "What time is it?"

Giles checked his watch. "Half past four, why?"

"School's out. Elita's on her way over to you. Giles," she paused, concerned.

"Understood. We'll keep her safe here until you and Angel arrive."

"Thanks."

"She's in good hands, Buffy. There's really nothing else you can do."

"Okay. Bye," Buffy ended the call as Angel got back in the car. "Thanks," she uttered as he handed her an ice pack.

"No problem. Are you sure you didn't want to get checked over?" Angel asked her worriedly.

"No, we need to get to the Magic Box. I'll heal on the way."

"Sure," Angel uttered, unconvinced, but obeying the urgency anyway. He restarted the engine and moved the car on.

 


A few minutes later, two tired warriors walked into the Magic Box.

Buffy made her way to Giles, Angel following. "So, any monster reptile cobra sightings?"

Her watcher shook his head. "None."

"Oz and I did a mini-patrol earlier, but biggie snake was nowhere to be-" Willow stopped speaking as something caught her gaze.

They turned in time to see the cobra staring at them through the window. It burst through the glass and reared up, glaring at them. It's eyes were fixed on Elita, who was screaming out of sheer terror.

The Cobra's eyes glowed red, and then suddenly it turned and slithered away.

"Elita, you okay?" Spike asked her.

"Why was the big snake afraid of Elita?" Xander asked.

Buffy turned to Giles and Angel. "It knows!" She whispered, before running out after it. Angel followed her.

Giles grabbed his car from outside and drove it level with them, opening the door. The two champions jumped in and the vehicle began chasing the cobra.

Angered the beast whacked with it's tail. Giles managed to dodge one blow, but the snake was too fast, and the second sent him into some garbage bags.

"We've gotta stop this monster before it gets back to Glory," Buffy declared.

"Glory?" Giles echoed.

"That's what he called her. Giles, she's gonna know Elita's the key if we don't-"

"We will," Giles assured her, before backing the car out to resume the chase.

 


"Please! Please, mistress!" Dreg begged as he cowered before her.

Glory was tossing shoe boxes at him.

"Perturbed, yet ultimately merciful-Please, don't-"

Glory was fuming. "What is taking so long, Dreg? You told me snakey-wakey would find my key. Now why isn't he back here with a beautiful message for me?"

"I grovel like a bug, most silky and effervescent Glorificus- Glory! Glory. Your most fresh and cleanness, it's just a matter of time."

"Ohh! Everything takes time! What about my time? Does anyone appreciate that I'm on a schedule here? Tick, tock, Dreg! Tick frickin' tock!"

Dreg hit the floor as more shoe boxes came his way, anxiously praying to the gods that the creature would return soon.

 


The cobra slithered down the rapidly darkening streets of Sunnydale suburbs, followed closely by Giles' car, as the vehicle careened around corners and dodged other cars. Ahead the snake tore at a section of tarp covered fence, the movement almost missed in the night, if not for the watcher's headlights.

Giles braked with a screech of tires, and Buffy and Angel leapt out of the car to follow the creature on foot.

Buffy grabbed a piece of chain from a fence as they chased after the creature, leaping on to a large rock as the snake rounded a corner of the path. She jumped off the rock and landed on the cobra's back, wrapping the chain around it's neck.

Enraged the cobra thrashed about, trying to throw her off, but the slayer hung on for grim death. Slowly she tightened the chain, until it began to strangle the snake, until it stopped struggling in her grip. She relaxed when she thought it was over.

Suddenly the monster reared up, throwing her off him. She flew backwards into Angel's arms, who broke her fall on the ground. The snake turned to hiss at her as she got up.

Buffy punched it in the face, then climbed on top of it again, punching it over and over. She continued to punch, lost in the moment.

Angel opened his eyes and rose from the ground to find his beloved thrashing the now dead creature. Slowly he mounted the body behind her, and gently grabbed her arms, restraining then finally halting the blows. Silently he held her, waiting for the adrenaline to fade away, for the stillness of the night to calm her.

The slayer heaved a cry, then turned round and clutched at him, pouring out a sudden fountain of grief, born out of tiredness and despair at the possible future of losing against the her new enemy.

Angel said nothing, knowing nothing could be said to make her hope again. He just continued to hold her, caressing her blond locks, her tanned skin through her clothes, until the salty tears soaked his own.

Opposite them, a few feet away, the curtains on an apartment flickered as their owner pushed them back.

Glory stared at the empty street, frowning into the darkness. Slowly her eyes made out the scene of her monster dead. She gazed at it for a moment, then let the curtain fall back, as she turned away.

The End.
To Be Continued In

Insane, Insane.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: This is a rewrite of the original episode; Listening to Fear, to account for Joyce's continued life in the series, and for Buffy learning about the madness increase without visiting the hospital. I made reference to some things in here; a future episode otherwise known as Normal Again; and I assume that Glory's second victim is an estate agent. My reasons for the latter is how else would she gain that nice apartment? It just seemed fitting to her character. Oh, and incase anyone is wondering, I figured Buffy would look after Elita (Dawn) even if she wasn't her sister, as in keeping to her character. The title is taken from a song by Texas. Enjoy.

Insane, Insane.

"Are you sure you're ready for what's to come?" He asked her.

The slayer nodded and knocked on the door. Swapping their serious expressions for nervous smiles, they buried their concerns about tonight as the door opened to admit them into 1630 Revello Drive.

"Hey, honey," Joyce Summers smiled and returned the hug her daughter gave her.

"Hey, Mom," Buffy replied before stepping back from the embrace to enter the house. She gazed cautiously about the hall as her mother greeted Angel.

"He's in the kitchen," Joyce informed them. "He's cooking dinner. Don't worry," she added at her daughter's look. "He's not a robot."

Buffy nodded but her slayer senses on full alert as she entered the kitchen. The man who turned round from the cooker had no idea she was checking that wasn't a demon or a vampire before he had even opened his mouth.

"You must be Buffy," He said, holding out his hand. "I'm Alex Bryne."

"Pleased to meet you," Buffy replied, shaking his hand, managing to discount vampirism as she felt the pulse within his wrist. Curiously she peered at the steaming saucepans. "What are we having?" She asked.

"Carbonara," he informed her. "I hope you and your boyfriend don't mind Italian," he added as Angel entered.

"I spent some time there," Angel replied while Buffy shook her head. "You?"

"I did a tour with Doctors Without Borders," Alex informed them. "I did wonder about the name," he added as he shook Angel's hand.

"It's short for Angelus," Angel replied. "After the devotion. My family were Roman Catholics," he explained, which was true, from a certain point of view.

"So you're a doctor?" Buffy sought.

Alex nodded. "I work at Sunnydale General," he explained. "Psychiatric wing."

"I'm surprised you have some free time," Buffy remarked as he dished up the meal into a serving bowl. "From what I've read in the papers."

"There has been an increase in admittance," Alex agreed. "Infact we're having to ask family members to take patients home due to overcrowding."

"Do you have any idea what's causing it?" Joyce asked as they sat down to table.

Alex shook his head. "We're beginning to wonder if it's not the first symptom of a disease," he replied. "None of the patients have a history of depression, or any other psychological troubles. And no one has a connection to the other." He paused to serve up his meal. "The first was a night watchman at one of the warehouses. The second was an estate agent."

"It's so terrible," Joyce sympathised. "All those poor people and their families, having no idea what's wrong with them."

"Yes," Alex agreed. "But I shouldn't be talking shop. So you're at Sunnydale UCA, Buffy," he began anew. Have you decided on a Major?"

"Not yet," Buffy replied. "But I'm thinking either Psychology or English Lit." She smiled. "But Giles might want me to take Mythology as well."

"Giles is your mentor," Alex sought and she nodded. "It's an unusual subject. It must be very fascinating."

"It is. And it's very broadly based," Buffy added. "It covers the origins of myths and legends from a lot of countries."

"You know, it was said that madness was once a plague from God," Alex remarked. "Sent to try the faithful. And that when it began to consume the world, a demon would be sent from the sky to quell the plague."

"And the victims," Buffy remarked, knowingly.

"And, Angel, you're a lecturer?"

"Yes, I teach Art History," Angel replied.

"Ah, do you draw yourself?"

"I do, but only for my own amusement," Angel replied.

"He draws beautifully," Buffy added. "On Valentine's day last year he gave me a drawing of a rose without a thorn. It looked so real I wanted to touch it."

"I see I'm gonna have to work hard to impress all of you," Alex remarked.

"Oh, don't worry," Joyce replied. "You already are, by caring for those patients. It must be very hard."

"Not hard, necessarily, but troubling," Alex replied. "You don't know whether to humour them or tell them its' not real. You have no idea how they might react to having their illusions destroyed or confirmed."

"Excuse me," Buffy uttered suddenly, standing up. "I need to fetch some more water. Anyone else?"

They shook their heads, but Angel's brooding gaze remained on his girlfriend as he watched her disappear into the kitchen. Without a word he got up and joined her.

"Buffy, is something wrong?" He asked her as he watched her carefully pour water into her half-full glass.

"No, nothing," Buffy replied.

Angel gently took the bottle out of her hands and put it back in the fridge. He closed the door and turned her, taking her hands in his. "You don't need to lie to me. Something disturbed you during that conversation, I know it."

"It's something which happened six years ago," Buffy replied. "But I'm not ready to tell it. At least not tonight."

"But you will tell me one day?" Angel asked her. "You know you can tell me anything, right?"

"I know," she replied. "And I know you will try to fix it. But there are some things I fear which have no cure."

And with those words she kissed his cheek before taking her glass and leading him back into the dining room.

 


"You know some of the stars we're looking at ... don't even exist any more? In the time that it takes for their light to reach us, they've died. Exploded."

Tara turned and smiled at her friend. "They always look alive to me."

"You know, I used to love to look up at them when I was little. They're supposed to make you feel all insignificant, but ... they made me feel like ... like I was in space ... part of the stars." Willow pointed up at one constellation. "There's ... Canis Minor ... and ...and Cassiopeia."

"And the big pineapple," Tara replied, pointing another.

Willow frowned. "Hmm. You know, I'm not sure I remember that one."

"Oh, it's, a major one. See those three bright stars right over there?"

Willow titled her head in the direction. "Yeah."

"And see those stars along there? That's the bottom of the pineapple."

"It's big," the redhead agreed.

"Hence the name. The real ones never made sense to me, I ... sort of have my own."

"What are the others called?" Willow asked.

"See those stars over there? 'Short man looking uncomfortable.' That's 'Moose getting a sponge bath.' 'Little pile of crackers.'"

Willow frowned.

"That was a bit of a stretch," Tara agreed. "You do it. What would you call ... mm, that one?" She pointed to a particularly bright star.

"Hmm, let's see," murmured Willow as she gazed into the night sky.

Suddenly the bright star enlarged in size and began streaking into a comet shape, heading towards the earth.

"A huge flaming meteor about to crash into something!" Willow cried and they quickly called the impromptu stargazing session to an end, in favour of rising to their feet and rushing off towards the crash site into the woods.

Had they been on the scene immediately, they would have seen the meteorite crash open in the ground, and a strange, unknown demon slither its way out of the wreckage, it's vision and nose questing for prey.

Fortunately for the beast, it's desires were soon satisfied.

A man who had recently been released from the hospital psychiatric wing, the night watchman Dr. Alex Bryne had mentioned to Buffy and her family would have been familiar to the slayer if she had seen his face. She would have remembered encountering him at the warehouse where she first fought blond woman dressed in red now known to the slayerettes as Glory.

"I know what I said. I said-I said I won't go away far. A person needs to respect a man," the man said to himself.

The beast slithered down the path it made behind him.

"And then it says ... that... the facts says... he's got to go take a walk and get some fresh air and find some fresh spaces."

Maybe it was the wind which made the tree bark crack or the slithering beast as it changed direction to find it's prey.

"...and some fresh space! And needs to walk to get ... to get where he's going."

Suddenly the man came to a halt as something dropped on to his back. The man screamed as the creature prepared him for quelling.

 


"So, what do you think?" Joyce asked.

Buffy turned from the dishes to hand one to Angel who began drying it as she replied to her mother. "He's nice," she decided, speaking of Alex Bryne, who had been called back to the hospital via a message on his pager.

"Good," Joyce remarked with relief, causing Angel to hide a grin.

"Definitely no vampire or demon," Buffy added, much to her mother's consternation. "And not a robot with drug infested food."

Joyce Summers shivered. "Don't remind me." She wanted to forget the last time she had brought someone home for Buffy to meet. She glanced at the kitchen clock as it struck the hour. "Are you meant to be patrolling tonight?"

"No, the boys; Oz, Xander, Doyle and Wes volunteered," Buffy informed her, handing another piece of china to Angel. "What with Glory they figured I needed a few nights off to recuperate."

"Glory," Joyce echoed. "Doesn't sound like a girl whose a demon incarnate."

"We don't even know if she is a demon," Angel added.

"Demons I can handle," Buffy remarked. "Glory is something different. Especially when we can't find a reference to her in the books."

"Not at all?" Joyce sought.

"Giles and Jenny haven't found anything yet," Angel confirmed. "The last theory they had was in line with Willow's and Tara's; that Glory existed before the written word."

"And Elita has no idea who she is?"

"To be honest, I haven't dared to ask," Buffy confessed, drying her hands. "She's so innocent in some ways, and in others so mature. I beginning to wonder if she's as ancient as Glory could be."

A musical sound emitted from the slayer's jacket, and Buffy put the towel to one side before fishing out her mobile. "Hello?"

"Buffy," Willow replied. "You better come up to the woods. Something landed. Literally. I'm calling the whole gang."

"Okay, we're on our way," Buffy replied before ending the call.

 


"Wow. We have meteorite," Willow announced to the slayer when she and Angel arrived some time later.

"Is it hot?" Anya asked. "'Cause, uh, if there's radiation, you could like go all sterile."

Xander, Doyle and Oz backed away, leaving Angel to join the resident Watchers as they examined the meteorite before them.

"No, it's not hot," Giles replied. "It's warm. And broken. It's sort of hollow."

"So, uh, we're all thinking the same thing, right?" Anya asked.

"Festive piñata? Delicious candy?" Xander mocked.

"Something evil crashed to earth in this and then broke out and ... slithered away to do badness," Willow remarked.

"In all fairness, we don't really know about the slithered part," Giles added.

"Oh, no. I'm sure it frisked about like a fluffy lamb," Anya commented sarcastically.

"Let's look around," Buffy began. "Maybe we can figure out where it went."

Eleven people separated from the strange gathering to delve deeper into the woods, searching for more evidence of the 'something evil.'

"It went here!" Cordelia cried, calling them all over.

The slayer was the first to step forward and examine the victim.

"No pulse," she announced grimly.

"Yep, the space lamb got him," Anya remarked.

"Anya," Giles said, disgusted. "Why did Spike let you come?"

"He told me I was being annoying," Anya replied.

"Miraculous," Giles muttered.

"I recognise him," Buffy announced as she studied the body under the helpful light of torches which everyone was carrying. "He's the night watchman from that warehouse where I first fought Glory. Mom's date said he was the first to be admitted to the hospital's mental ward."

"I don't see any marks on him," Oz uttered.

Angel bent down to join his soulmate in examining the body. "Anyone got a stake or something?"

"Angel, I'm pretty sure it's not a vampire," Wesley remarked.

"I know that," the souled half-vampire replied. "There's something in his mouth."

Wesley handed him a knife from patrol.

"Speaking of the hellmouth's usual undead population, how did tonight's patrol go?" Buffy asked.

"Five vamps," Doyle replied. "We all managed to dust one."

"Including me," Cordelia replied.

Angel meanwhile tentatively poked open the victim's mouth with the silver dagger. His investigation soon revealed a green slimy substance, which made everyone cover their noses and mouths at the sight and smell.

"Oh, that might be toxic, don't touch it," Wes advised.

"Oh yeah, touching it was my first impulse," Xander mocked. "Luckily I've moved on to my second, which involves dry-heaving and running like hell. Oh, man, does that smell."

"So what do we do now?" Anya asked.

"The usual," Cordelia replied. "Research, wait for more victims, flash of inspiration, then let Buffy do the slaying."

"Thanks, Delia," Buffy replied.

"Yes, 'cause it seems like we're always dealing with creatures from outer space," Anya commented. "Except that we don't ever do that."

"This is definitely new territory," Wesley agreed.

"Perhaps we should explore a bit more, head into the woods a bit," Doyle offered.

Eleven heads turned to gaze at the dark and uninviting woods, remembering previous encounters of demons there.

"Who votes research?" Xander asked. All raised their hands and turned in the other direction, heading towards civilisation.

"I don't wanna be the one who finds the evil any more," Willow informed Giles as they walked out of the woods.

 


"Cold. Cold."

Dr. Bryne's heart went out to the patient as he pulled the blankets up over his restrained body. He hated putting them in restraints, but lately it had become necessary as the patient's neurological conditions grew more violent.

"Wait! You can't go!" The patient implored as he walked away. "Don't you be that kind of barn owl! Please! Please don't go! Please!"

Reluctantly Dr. Bryne turned the light off and exited the room.

"Please! Please! Please don't..." the patient whimpered in fear.

If he had been sane, he would not have blamed the doctor for leaving, for the noises he heard and the things he saw where indeed within his imagination.

The doctor could not know that these noises would soon become audible to everyone.

"I can't see you! I can't see you! I can't see you!" The patient cried.

Above him the beast moved from side to side, slithering along the ceiling of the ward. Suddenly it dropped from the tiles to land on the patient. Cloven hands placed themselves on the chest, and it insect like mouth opened to retch cloudy slime upon the patient's face, squealing with the motion.

Outside, the nurses continued with their paperwork, while the doctors tended to other members of the hospital wards.

 


"Look at how teeny Mercury is compared to, like, Saturn. Whereas in contrast, the cars of the same name..."

Giles looked at him in exasperation. "Xander, please, we have work to do here."

"I still don't get why we had to come here to get info about a killer snot monster," Xander added as he came to sit beside the rest of the group.

"Because it's a killer snot monster from outer space," Giles replied. A momentary paused ensued as the words travelled from his ear to his brain. "I did not say that. Demons enter our world in all sorts of ways, this one came from above."

"And the university library's astronomy section is the home of aboveness," Xander added in sudden understanding. "Got it. Hey, take in the study material, too." He held up a book entitled 'Meteors & You.'

"We've been scouring all the international periodicals for any other meteorite landings in the last week," Tara informed Giles as she and Anya came up to the main table which the slayerettes had commandeered for the evening.

"Big zippo," Anya informed them.

"Well, then it would appear that the world is not being invaded," Giles concluded.

"I'm pretty pleased about that," Tara added.

"Mulder won't be, I just called him about the thing," Giles remarked. "Fortunately I only got his answering machine, so I can cancel the call out."

"Uh, guys?" Willow called out, causing everyone to glance up from their books, "I've got some stuff. The most recent meteoric anomaly was the Tunguska blast in Russia in 1917. Some witnesses claimed the meteor was hollow."

"Hmm. Maybe with a chewy demon centre," Oz remarked.

"How far back does this list of anomalies go?" Buffy asked her best friend.

"Pretty far. Back to the Queller impact in the twelfth century," Willow informed her.

"The what?" Tara asked.

"Queller," Willow repeated. "I don't know why they call it that, it didn't hit a place called Queller or anything. It landed just outside of Reykjavik in Iceland."

"Wait, I just saw..." Xander trailed off as he flipped back pages of the book before him. "Queller. Quell ... here, here! 'Primitive people used to believe that the moon was a cause of insanity. Sometimes they would pray to the moon to send a special meteor to fix the problem the moon had caused. These meteors were expected to 'quell' the madmen.'"

"Dr. Bryne mentioned that myth during dinner," Angel recalled.

"The man in the woods. He was a mental patient," Buffy added.

"And he got pretty well ... quelled," Xander continued.

Willow clicked her mouse a few times. "Okay, I'm looking in history right now. It says in the Middle Ages there were these sweeping plagues of madness. People were losing their marbles everywhere. But then it would suddenly subside. And these dates look pretty close. Like maybe it happened after each one of the meteor events."

"So something emerged from the meteors ... and quelled the madmen," Giles concluded.

"Meteor go boom, crazy guy goes bye-bye," Xander added.

"Xander's little book made it sound like this Queller thing had to be summoned," Anya remarked. "So ... who summoned it?"

"Who else? My money's on Glory, our resident beastie summoner," Xander decided.

"Any info on how you kill it?" Cordelia asked. "Not that I'm volunteering," she added. "One vampire was enough. At least they turn into ashes."

"Shouldn't be too difficult. Your basic stab and kill. Well at least it's smaller than the cobra," Buffy commented. "Judging by the size of the meteor."

"We'd better check the mental ward," Angel advised as they headed to the door. "That's where it's most like to go."

 


The hospital was strangely and eerily quiet as Buffy and Angel entered via one of the back doors for delivery nights; where he had helped her three years ago concerning such a occasion, to fight off the vampires who tried to steal the blood supplies.

Lights flickered on and off as they crept cautiously down the corridor, scanning signs anxiously for the mental ward.

"This way," Angel whispered, and he pressed the button to release the doors to the access controlled department.

Buffy took the lead, glancing upwards and downwards and everywhere else as the beam of light from Angel's torch brought the corners and shadows out of darkness. She came to a stop at one closed door and peered into the window within its frame.

Still, seemingly asleep patients greeted her eyes, and her hand reached down for the knob, using her strength to break the lock.

They entered ward, and Angel kept watch by the door as the slayer checked the beds. She touched the neck of each patient, searching for a pulse.

"Five are dead," she announced to Angel, before continuing to examine more.

Suddenly something dropped from the ceiling and landed on her face.

"Buffy!" Angel called out and dropped his watch as he rushed towards his girlfriend.

They slayer grabbed the Queller demon, struggling to throw it off her. Finally she slammed it against a wall.

Queller squealed and slithered away.

"Did it get you?!" Angel asked her, carefully shining the torch on her face so she wasn't blinded. Tanned clean skin greeted his relieved dark eyes.

Buffy slipped a dagger from the waistband of her jeans. She pointed upwards, and Angel cautiously turned to the torch to the ceiling.

For a while they encountered nothing. Then suddenly they caught sight of something dark, heading towards the door.

Darting across the room, Buffy jumped on to one of the beds containing a dead patient, using it as leverage to grab the demon from the ceiling, stabbing it with her knife.

Queller squealed as it dropped on to her back, making the knife go flying into the direction of a nearby wall. Hurriedly Angel caught it before it could make a mark, his vampire reflexes still active, and turned to locate the fight. Quietly he stealthily stalked the beast as it tried to attack the slayer, until he was close enough to stab it in the back. He thrust the knife in as deep as he could.

The demon squealed, then Buffy pushed it away from her, breathing heavily as it fell to the floor.

"You alright?" Angel asked her as soon as they established that the demon lying on the floor before them was quelled.

"Yeah," Buffy replied. "Thanks," she added.

"Anytime," he smiled at her, then dropped the torch to the floor to fish out the large bag which he had carried to contain the demon.

"Cordelia's right," Buffy remarked as she helped him store the beast into the bag. "At least vampires only leave ashes."

"Do you really think Glory summoned it?" Angel asked her as they tied the bag's opening into a knot.

"Why do you ask?" Buffy queried.

"Because it seems like the type of thing someone would do if they were covering up the mess she left behind. And from what we know of her,"

"Glory doesn't seem to care," Buffy finished her boyfriend's thought.

 


"Goodnight, Ben," Dr Bryne said to his intern as they two men came to a halt outside the hospital entrance.

"Goodnight, Doc," Ben replied before walking to his car. He unlocked the vehicle, glancing round himself nervously. He had the distinct impression that he was not alone.

Sure enough a voice spoke up from the back seat.

"It's strange," the minion who had handed Glory the last spell to summon a demon, remarked to Ben from the darkness of the back seat of his car. "A body might ask what exactly it is you think you're doing. He might ask what all this was meant to accomplish. Because to a humble postulant, it looks like chaos. Like unnecessary attention drawn where it ought not to be."

"Get out!" Ben cried at him angrily.

"Sir." Dreg obeyed, climbing out of the back and coming to a stand beside the door of the driver. "Sir, forgive me. I just want to understand. Why summon the Queller?"

"What do you think?" Ben replied. "Because I'm cleaning up Glory's mess. Just like I've done my whole damn life."

He drove off, leaving Dreg to gaze after him solemnly.

The End.
To Be Continued In.

Superstar.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: I know, its odd moving one episode forward a season, but Superstar didn't fit in my canon where it originally occurred, and I'm sure B/A shippers like myself preferred my replacement- You'll notice that this is not an uncommon habit of mine, as I planned to swap a few more episodes, in this series. The episode does not differ too much from the original, except it minuses Riley, although it does refer to where he used to go in the canon at night. It also includes a lovely B/A scene in the opening and accounts for the continuity needs in Season Five. Enjoy.

Superstar.

"I'm sorry, I just had to get out. Hope you don't mind?"

Angel tightened his arm around her comfortingly as they headed further into the graveyard. "Beloved, why would I mind? You've been doing a lot lately; working hard on your courses, training, researching Glory and Elita. Not to mention patrolling. You've barely had time to babysit our godson."

"You beam when you mention Ellis, you know?" Buffy smiled at him from where her head rested against his chest as they walked down the path between the graves.

"Do I?" If it was possible for a souled-half-human vampire to blush, Angel did so. "I can't help it. When I see you spend time with him, and with my redemption so close, I can almost believe he's our child."

"Well, imagination gonna's have to do for awhile, honey," Buffy replied sadly. "I don't want to even think about children until we've finished with Glory. I couldn't risk her doing something to them. I worry about what she'll do to Elita and she isn't even related to me." She looked up at him. "Are you alright with that?"

"Of course I am," Angel assured her. "Buffy, I don't want children unless we're both ready. And when you have a few more rings on that finger of yours," he added, taking the digit which carried the claddagh ring into his mouth for a long, devout kiss. Buffy smiled at him, and stretched upwards to replace the finger with her lips. Angel's arms gradually caressed their way around her, as they forgot their surroundings.

A growl disturbed them from their romance, and the two chosen warriors parted to fight the vampire. The bald-headed undead beast leapt and spin, aiming a kick at that their heads, which they manage to dodge, darting away to surround him. Undeterred, the vampire rushed at the slayer, kicking her in the stomach, driving her back. He spun once more and backhanded her, catching her off-guard to knock her down. Angel pulled him off from rushing at her, only to receive a swipe in the face for his pains.

Buffy slowly rose to her feet, only to ambushed by another from behind, causing her to leave Angel to fight the first. He grabbed it in his arms, while wrestling with it, why the slayer kicked the other to the floor.

"Stake," Angel called out to her, and she grabbed one from her pocket swiftly aiming at the restrained vampire's chest. Maybe it was because of her overworked energies lately, or something else, but the slaying, though it succeeded, was not as clean as usual.

As it turned into dust, they glanced around for the other prone vampire, only to find it running off towards a large crypt. Buffy handed the stake to her soulmate before fetching another, and then they cautiously followed the vampire.

Like many of the crypts in Sunnydale cemeteries, this one led deeper underground. The two warriors descended the staircase into the darkness, until they reached the foot. Sounds could be heard from behind the door which lay before them. Stealthily the slayer raised a hand to push it aside.

The sight which met them was nothing the slayer had seen before. Vampires feeding on living humans from all walks of life. The place seemed suddenly transformed into the Opium dens of old, only this time the consumers had a found a much deadlier addiction.

Angel was the first to pull her back. "There's too many," he whispered.

"You're right," Buffy sighed. "You know who we need."

 


The solution was all the way across town, in the salubrious neighbourhood where Crawford street and other affluent houses were located.

Buffy and Angel knocked on the door, and after a short delay were admitted inside. Following the manservant into the formal study, they greeted the owner of the house.

"Uh, hi. We have a problem," Buffy began nervously. She hated to bother him, but it was necessary.

The black leather chair behind the desk spun round to reveal a small man dressed in tailored turtle neck and trousers. Patiently the warriors awaited his answer.

"Sounds like you could use my help," Jonathan remarked.

 


"No, a little more to the left."

Giles grimaced, but reluctantly obeyed. "Remind me how I got roped into this again?" he asked aloud as he adjusted the banner.

"'cause you're the only one who can spell, Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Gurnenthar's Ascendance, properly," Spike remarked, reading aloud from the banner which the watcher was hanging in the Magic Shop. "And you summoned a meeting of Jonathan and his fluffy battle kittens here," he added.

"And so it begins," Giles muttered as he stepped down. "Crass holiday commercialisation, enters the domain of the hellmouth once more."

"Oh. Who ordered more chickens' feet? The ones we have aren't moving at all," Anya remarked as she opened the first box of the stock delivery which arrived that morning.

"That's generally what happens when you cut them off the chicken," Xander mocked from his position beside her.

"I'm serious," Anya replied. "Maybe we could do a ... holiday promotion. One free with every purchase!"

Spike scowled, while Giles remarked, "oh, yeah. Dear holiday memories. Merry tykes by the fire, enjoying their new Christmas ... chicken feet."

"Aw, holding them tight as they fall asleep. Painting their little toenails," Willow added, making Giles, Xander and Spike grin.

Anya's expression was more insulted. "That's so very humorous. Make fun of the ex-demon! I can just hear you in private. 'I dislike that Anya. She's newly human and strangely literal.'

Willow frowned. "Anya, I don't say that. No one says that. No one talks that way."

"There's nothing wrong with my idea anyway. I've been very good for this store. If it wasn't for me, Spike would be a terrified vampire staring at a quarterly tax statement and wetting himself."

"If it wasn't for you, luv, I might actually get some other customers in here aside from the Jonathanettes," Spike remarked.

"Anya, you've helped out a lot, but I have too," Willow argued.

"Yes, I forgot about all the vigorous sitting around," Anya returned.

"An, you can back off a little," her boyfriend remarked. "You get paid. Willow's doing this on her own time."

"I'm sorry, Willow," Anya uttered with a false smile. "Thank you for making time in your busy life to come in here and get in the way of mine."

"An, play nice." Xander said, annoyed.

"You know, fine, take her side instead of mine even though I'm the one who sleeps with you and feeds you, bathes you..."

"She bathes you?" Willow asked Xander.

Her best friend blushed. "Only in an erotic, Penthouse-y way, not in a sponge-bath-y geriatric sort of..."

Giles held up a hand. "Please! Stop, I beg of you."

The shop bell jingled as the door opened to admit the rest of the gang, making everyone turn round, and thankfully for Giles, drawing the conversation to a halt.

Buffy and Jonathan headed the procession. "Thanks for doing this Jonathan," she was saying to him, "I wouldn't ask but..."

"Hey don't worry about it," the man remarked. "Nest full of vampires, you come get me, ok. Box full of puppies, that's more of a judgement call."

"So what is this all about?" Giles asked her.

"I need to find out everything I can about a vamp nest downtown," Buffy replied.

"A nest? What sort of nest?" Wesley queried.

"There were people there," the slayer replied. "It, um, it looked like they were paying vampires to bite them."

"Now I know what to get for the person who has everything!" Xander mocked.

"Who would pay to get bitten?" Tara asked.

"Oh, that's been going on for centuries," Anya informed them. "Humans hire vampires to feed off them, they, well, you know, they get off on the rush."

"And the ... hazards of the underworld can become addictive to ... some people," Giles answered self-consciously.

"Why don't the vampires just kill 'em?" Xander asked.

"Because they get cash, hot and cold running blood, and they don't leave any corpses behind so they don't get hunted," Anya explained.

"But still, it can be terribly dangerous for humans," Giles added. "I mean, people can end up dying accidentally, or, or meeting a, a vampire who only pretends to play by the house rules."

Buffy frowned at him. "You knew this sort of thing went on? You knew about this and you didn't tell me?"

"I hadn't seen it since my Ripper days. I had no idea it was going on in Sunnydale," Giles replied apologetically. "Even if I had known about this, I might not have told you right now."

"What? Why?" Buffy asked him.

"Well, I'm not sure this is where your efforts are best spent. Perhaps you should focus on ... a less ambiguous evil. Glory, for instance?"

"You said people are dying," Buffy uttered, confused.

"They're willing victims. I mean, there are people out there who deserve your help who aren't," Giles replied. "Jonathan, back me up here."

"Rupert is right, Buffy," Jonathan replied. "Glory should be your main priority right now." Seeing her frown, he added, "but vampires are vampires. And your job description is pretty clear. If we're going into a nest, maybe we should come up with a strategy. Willow, Oz, get on the net, hack into the schematics for the crypt."

The shop bell rang noisily as the group settled into the chairs surrounding the large circular research table. Spike looked towards the customer, only to smother a growl of annoyance as he noticed the latest edition of Jonathan's biography tightly clutched to her chest.

"Hi, could you please?" The girl asked the star.

"Sure," Jonathan smiled and signed the book.

"Thank you," the girl uttered before rushing outside to her friend, whom, much to Spike's annoyance, also entered on the same quest.

"You're Jonathan Levinson! Oh my god! Oh my god! My name is Karen and I think you're.. You're wonderful! Oh my god!" Karen gushed.

"Hi Karen, thank you," Jonathan was all that is the gracious celebrity. "Oh, is that my book? Well I could,...."

"Yeah please I-I didn't want to bother you! It's Karen with a K!"

"No problem," Jonathan answered, signing it for her.

"Thank you!... So much!!! Thanks!" Karen gushed before rushing out of the shop.

"Thanks so much for visiting my shop, Jonathan," Spike mocked in a intimation of the fan's voice. "It's so quiet when you're not here."

"Spike, sarcasm never pays," Jonathan remarked.

"Oh Jonathan, we're in," Willow uttered, and he came to stand behind her. "Schematics for the crypt, part of the original plan for the cemetery, sometime there's a ... Oh no back way in, just the one entrance."

"Well, maybe we could make it work for us," Buffy volunteered. "We could stake out the entrance you know, uh, maybe use a decoy, lure them out."

"Or I bet..., there!" Jonathan pointed to something on the screen. "We can get in that way."

"Oh of course, why didn't I think of that," Willow remarked.

"I'm sure you would have," Jonathan assured her. He turned to the others. "I think we have a plan. Buffy, you go in first, let em get a look at the slayer. Angel, you follow her. Xander, Willow, Oz, Tara, Cordelia, Doyle and Anya you back up Buffy. I'll be the surprise guest. Everyone lets show these fiends that they came to the wrong town."

 


Deep inside the crypt, a vampire sent away his last customer, just before an arrow came from the darkness, transforming him into dust. Alarmed, the other vampires abandoned their meals, while the rest of their clientele headed for the nearest exit, as the slayer and her slayerettes entered the room.

A loud crash made the vampires turn round, as a figure landed on the floor, having entered via the skylight. Jonathan fired another arrow, slaying another vampire.

The others decided to charge, just as Jonathan aimed for a third. Buffy and Angel managed to take one each, while the Scoobies grappled with the others. Concentrated fighting gradually took out each one of the vampires, until one brushed past the slayer, slapping the stake out of her hands.

Jonathan dropped fluidly into a one knee stance and fired his crossbow, catching the vampire square in the back.

"I should have gotten that one," Buffy mourned as she retrieved her stake.

"You got three of them," Jonathan reminded her. "And that second one was ready for you. You should feel pretty good."

"But I let one get by me," Buffy uttered.

"Don't worry. You know it only matters that you do your best." He patted her shoulder as he walked past her, heading out of the crypt into the glare of cameras, owned by the fourth estate, who had found out where Jonathan was that night.

"But that's just it," Buffy uttered as she and rest followed the celebrity out, "I don't think it was my best."

"Hey, Jonathan, over here, quick photo, please another one, right here," the press called out.

Jonathan posed, then brushed them away. "Ok guys that's enough."

"I think did great," Xander remarked. "We knocked 'em dead. Which they already were."

"They weren't very well organised," Anya added. "If they had all rushed at Buffy they could have killed her right away."

"Thanks Anya. That won't keep me awake all night," Buffy returned sarcastically.

"Vampires only form nests to make hunting easier. They're not big on the cooperation. They mostly like to hang out all creepy and alone in the shadows," Jonathan reminded them.

"I'll be better next time," Buffy remarked determinedly.

"That's the spirit," Jonathan uttered. "If you really want it you can make anything happen."

 


While the official, paid stalkers halted at Jonathan's door, the unofficial non-paid fans, such as Karen with a K, preferred to spy with binoculars at the windows of his impressive mansion later that day, as night settled on the Hellmouth.

"Where are you Jonathan? Are you like, never home?"

Suddenly her view was blacked out, and she lowered the binoculars, expecting to see a security guard telling her to leave.

Except this was no security guard. Unless monsters now charged for killing people. Karen with a K screamed as the beast swiped at her, clutching her with his hand. Blindly she swung her binoculars at him, until he released her. Dropping them, she ran off through the grass, anxious to find her hero to rescue her.

 


"Did not," Anya protested to her boyfriend as they and the rest of the Scoobies entered the Bronze.

"Last night with me you said Jonathan," Xander insisted, before silently acknowledging his bar staff's greetings.

"It was a moan!" Anya protested.

"Fine! You moaned Jonathan!" Xander corrected.

"Not unh! It was like unnh-unnh-atha." Anya replied.

"Maybe it was ahh-onathan. Still not fluffing up the old ego," Xander remarked.

"Could you guys lay off," Cordelia ordered. "Jonathan's about to sing."

The Scoobies turned in the direction of the stage, as the main spotlight focused on tonight's headliner.

"Good evening everyone," Jonathan uttered. "I'd to dedicate this to some friends of mine. Everyone needs a friend in their lives and you're the best." He began to sing. "When I hear that serenade in blue, I'm somewhere in another world alone with you. Sharing all the joys we used to know Many moons ago. Once again your face comes back to me. Just like the theme of some forgotten melody In the album of my memory. Serenade in blue. Seems like only yesterday A small cafe, a crowded floor. And as we danced the night away I hear you say forever more. And then the song became a sigh. Forever more became goodbye. But you remain in my heart. Tell me darling is there still a spark. Serenade in blue."

The crowded nightclub broke out into applause as the song came to an end. Jonathan bowed, then picked up his trumpet, sounding out an intro.

"Oh my god!" Cordelia cried. "He's going to do something off the new album."

"Xander," Anya remarked, her eyes never leaving Jonathan's form.

"Yeah." Xander's eyes were also fixed on the star.

"Let's go have sex now."

Xander's gaze did not move. "Yeah, ok."

Finding each other's hands, they walked off together in the direction of his office, never taking their eyes from the stage and Jonathan until the last possible moment.

Suddenly someone grabbed the slayer's arm, making her turn round.

"Oh!" Buffy uttered, recognising her as one of the fans who had visited the Magic Shop earlier that day. "What is it? Are you ok?"

Jonathan stopped singing, and joined them. "Karen, that's your name isn't it? I signed my book for you. Tell me what hurt you, Karen. I can help."

 


A few hours later, and the Scoobies gathered at Jonathan's mansion, awaiting the star's instructions, as he comforted Karen with a K by the fireplace.

"Let's get you warmed up," he uttered.

Buffy turned as one of Sunnydale's finest entered the room. "What's going on, why are you here?"

"Mr. Levinson, someone on your staff reported a disturbance," the policeman informed him. "When I realised it was on your property I thought I'd better come down in person."

"That's all right, sergeant. I have it under control," Jonathan assured him.

The officer was much relieved. "Of course, sir. Glad to see you're alright."

Jonathan turned to his fan. "Karen, I know you're scared, but I need to hear your description again."

"It was ugly - big ugly - all bent over sort of with these... huge arms and like... scabs and stuff."

Jonathan stroked her arm consolingly. "That must have been very frightening. I'm so sorry."

"Oh! Oh! I forgot. It had a mark!" Karen cried.

"A mark?" Jonathan echoed.

"On it's forehead, like a symbol," Karen explained.

"Here," Doyle uttered, handing her a notepad. She drew a triangle with a six pointed star within it. Then she handed it to Jonathan.

The star took the notepad and stared at the sketch. "Well. This is a clue," he uttered less like his usual confident self.

"Jonathan?" Buffy queried.

He strove to calm himself. "I've heard of this. It's not a demon, just a monster not much more than an animal. It sticks to the woods, doesn't come near populated areas."

"But it did this time, it might again," Buffy objected. "Maybe we should patrol."

"Actually I think Karen simply startled it. Probably more afraid of you then were of it. I'll patrol but you don't need to worry about it. I can handle it on my own. Now let's see about getting Karen a ride home."

 


"Oh magnificent, bounteous, Glory," Dreg remarked. "I wished to humbly inform you, that there seems to be a new powerful force within the neighbourhood. His name is Jonathan."

Dreg turned on the television, where The Matrix was just starting, with Jonathan in the headline role.

"These are lies," Glory remarked. "None of this is real. The world has been changed. It's intriguing but it's wrong."

"Begging your pardon oh Glorious one, but the world seems normal to me," Dreg uttered.

"You're under his spell just like the others," Glory replied. "I seem to be the only one who is not."

"My esteemed beautiful one is as always right," Dreg simpered. "How might we kill this lowly creature who dares to claim your glory?"

"We don't need to do anything. These magic's are unstable, corrosive. The slayer should take care of him, if she has any sense. Gives us time to look for key."

"Of course, oh brightly intuitive one," Dreg uttered.

 


At a mansion further up the road, a man stared silently into the vast expanse of his hearth, thoughtful and almost morose.

"Jonathan," a Nordic voice called out from the balcony above. "Aren't you coming to bed?"

"Yeah it's getting late," her identical companion uttered beside her.

"Be right there," Jonathan uttered before rising from his seat. He removed the robe he was wearing, revealing to the fiery flames a symbol scarring his left shoulder blade.

A six pointed star surrounded by a triangle.

 


"I'm glad you're ok," Willow remarked to her best friend as they, Tara and Cordelia walked across campus grounds the next morning. "Everyone in the Bronze was pretty freaked out after you left."

"So I guess you have go fight this thing, hunh?" Tara asked.

"All the weapons are at Giles,'" Willow reminded them. "It shouldn't take too long."

"No go," Buffy uttered.

"Did you just say no go?" Willow queried in surprise.

"Jonathan did," Buffy explained. "He said it was some brainless beasty and that he would take care of it himself."

"Oh, cool," Willow uttered.

"I guess. I don't know he just... he seemed a little scared," Buffy uttered as she recalled Jonathan's expression last night.

"Buffy this is Jonathan," Cordelia remarked. "You know he doesn't get scared. You talked about it when you gave him the Class Protector Award at the prom."

"You're right," Buffy agreed.

"My exit," Tara announced, pointing to her lecture hall. "I'll see you this afternoon."

"Yeah," Buffy answered, still preoccupied with the events of the night before.

Tara smiled at them all before entering the building. She had not walked far before she heard a noise. Concerned, she hurried, anxious to be with people again. She brushed through the double doors infront of her, only to be confronted by the monster. The best raised his hand and slapped her violently, sending her to the floor.

Tara slid on the tiled floor, holding her hands out protectively. Searching for a place to hide, she ran into the janitor's closet nearby. Huddled, she waited for the pounding on the door to stop before getting her mobile out of her jacket and calling for Spike.

 


"What's going on?" The slayer uttered as the bleached blond vampire let her into Tara's bedroom on campus some time later. "Oh my god," Buffy uttered as she caught sight of Tara's small wounds.

"She's gonna be ok, but she's terrified," Spike informed her as he gathered his girlfriend into arms, sitting beside her shivering form on the bed.

"What happened? What did this?" Buffy asked.

"She phoned me from the Janitor's closet. I closed up shop and came straight away," Spike explained. "I found her and carried her back here."

"Tara, what did this?" Buffy asked her as she knelt before them.

"It was big, lumpy. had something on its - on its head. Like a Greek letter only not," Tara explained.

Buffy grabbed the writing paper nearby and drew the symbol she had seen Karen with a K draw the night before. She showed it to her friend. "This, was it this?"

Tara nodded. Spike looked at it. "Is this that symbol which was on that beast who attacked one of Jonathan's kittens last night?"

"Yep. The one which Jonathan said he would take care of." Buffy glanced at the symbol. "I'll take care of this, you two stay here."

 


"Xander's not here," his girlfriend remarked as Buffy entered his apartment.

"Oh," Buffy uttered.

"You're not going away. Why aren't you going away?" Anya asked.

"Oh I was kind of hoping to look at some of Xander's stuff," Buffy explained.

"Oh. Sure. Come on in. Make yourself at home. And so on."

She returned to her couch and took up her book, Jonathan's latest biography.

"May I ask you something? Does it every seem just a little strange that Jonathan is so good at everything?" Buffy asked her.

Anya shrugged as if the thought had never occurred to her. "He's Jonathan." She turned to her book, but Buffy grabbed the volume. "Hey! I was just at the part where he invented the internet."

"Anya, he fights better than I do. And I'm the slayer." Buffy pointed to herself. "The Slayer! That's supposed to mean something, right?"

"Oh! buck up you," Anya replied unconvincingly "You kill the best. Go you. Kill, kill."

"Actually not needing validation right now, but thank you. He just seems too perfect." She sighed. I don't know."

"So I can have my book back?" Anya asked.

"Anya when you were a demon, you granted wishes right?" Buffy asked.

"Vengeance wishes on ex boyfriends. I'd wish he was a dog, or ugly, or in love with president McKinley or something."

"But someone could wish the whole world to be different right? That's possible?"

"Sure, alternate realities. You could have like a world without shrimp. Or with, you know, nothing but shrimp. You could even make like a freaky world where Jonathan's some kind of not perfect mouth breather, if that's what's blowing up your skirt these days. Just don't ask me to live there! Now if I, uh, could just have book back you could be on your way someplace else?"

"Here," Buffy handed the book to her and exited the apartment.

 


"I'm just saying it doesn't make any sense. He starred in The Matrix but he never left town. And how'd he graduate from Med. school? He's only nineteen years old."

"Effective time management?" Xander offered.

"I'm sorry, Buffy, I just don't understand what you're trying to say," Giles said.

"Yeah and when is Jonathan going to get here and start the meeting?" Anya asked, annoyed that she had been dragged away from her book into Giles' apartment.

"This is the meeting," Buffy replied.

"This is the meeting?" Willow echoed.

"Well, I was just kind of wondering if maybe anyone thought that Jonathan was kind of too perfect?"

"No he's not!" Xander cried. " He's just perfect enough! He crushed the bones of the master, he blew up a big snake made out of the mayor and he coached the U.S. women's soccer team to stunning World Cup victory! We saw him doing those things!"

"But that's just it. I'm not entirely sure that we can trust our memories," Buffy objected. "Anya, tell them about the alternate universes."

"Oh ok. Umm. Say you really like shrimp a lot. Or we could say you don't like shrimp at all. Blah I wish there weren't any shrimp you would say to yourself."

"Stop, you're saying it wrong! I think that Jonathan may be doing something so that he's manipulating the world and we're all like his pawns," Buffy replied.

"Or prawns," Anya offered.

"Stop with the shrimp, I am trying to do something here!" Buffy cried.

"Of course, but it may be a little out of your depth," Giles remarked.

"I'm not," Buffy insisted. "I think Jonathan might be ignoring evidence. I think he might have let Tara get hurt."

"On purpose?" Willow asked.

Buffy shook her head. "No! No."

"How did he ignore evidence?" Giles asked.

"The monster had a mark on it. Jonathan saw it and he kind of..." she searched for a suitable word. "Blinked."

"He blinked?" Xander cried incredulously. "The man moistened his eyeballs and we're having a meeting about it."

"He knows something about the monster. He was reacting to the mark." Suddenly she stopped. "Oh!!! Wait, I remember something. Giles, do you have a Jonathan swimsuit calendar?"

"No," Giles protested.

"Jenny?" Buffy asked, frowning in confusion.

Giles sighed, and saved his wife the trouble of answering. "Yes. It was a gift." He retrieved the item in question.

Buffy flipped through the months. "No. No. Whoah! No. There."

"Oh, my," Cordelia uttered.

"Yeah. Pretty darn lickable," Anya added.

"No, that," Buffy pointed to the scar on the model's left shoulder blade.

"Why would Jonathan have the same mark as the monster?" Angel asked.

"I don't know," Buffy uttered. But he's definitely keeping......"

Whatever she was going to say next was lost, for Jonathan entered the apartment.

"Is this a private conversation... or can Mr. July sit in?"

"Hi. Buffy was just saying how you had a monster cut up Tara," Anya replied.

"Buffy?" Jonathan frowned.

"No!" Buffy cried. "It's just ... the mark. You said it was safe.. and it wasn't. I'm sorry. I just don't understand."

"Then I'll explain. Buffy is right."

"No!" Oz uttered in shock.

"I do have a history with the creature. The monster. The problem is every time I face it my mind becomes sort of confused. There's some kind of power it possesses."

"Ooh! He's like your Kryptonite," Xander offered.

"Maybe. I just knows it takes all my energy to try and fight the confusion. That's why I had his mark tattooed on me so that I wouldn't underestimate it next time."

"This does explain everything," Giles remarked.

"I knew you wouldn't do anything on purpose," Xander added.

"Me too! And that whole alternate universe thing was too freaky!" Willow cried.

"Jonathan, let's go after the monster. Right now, you and me," Buffy suggested.

"I'm sure it's left town by now," Jonathan replied. "That's been it's pattern."

"We can try," Buffy insisted.

"Sure. Let's do that," Jonathan uttered cautiously, before following her outside.

 


"These spells... these really work? I mean, can you really turn your enemies inside out? Or... learn to excrete gold coins?" Elita asked the Scoobies at Giles apartment.

"That one's not so much fun," Anya uttered.

"They work but they take concentration," Jenny explained. "Being attuned with the forces of the universe."

Xander nodded. "Right you can't just go librum incendere and expect...." he trailed off as the book he was study burst into flame. Surprised, he slammed the book closed, putting out the fire before it could do further harm.

"Xander, don't speak Latin in front of the books," Giles told him.

"Hey, I found the mark," Willow cried. "It's part of an augmentation spell." She gasped, concerned. "Jonathan did an augmentation spell."

"What, did he have, do?" Elita asked.

"Him! And how we see him. This spell turns the sorcerer into a sort of paragon, the best of everything, everyone's ideal. But there's a drawback."

Giles rose and read the rest of page within the opened book before her. "Yes. In order to balance the new force of good the spell has to create the opposing force of evil, the worst of everything, everyone's nightmare."

"He created the monster," Jenny concluded.

"So we're saying he did a spell just to make us think he was cool?" Xander asked.

"Yes," Giles confirmed.

"That is so cool!" Xander cried.

"Giles, Buffy and Jonathan are going after this nightmare thing. Are they going to be ok?" Angel asked him.

"It seems that the well being of this creature is linked to Jonathan. If it dies the spell is broken and Jonathan reverts to... whatever he was before," Giles replied.

"Jonathan isn't gonna want Buffy to get very far," Anya uttered.

 


Sure enough as Buffy and Jonathan entered the creature's alleged temporary, they were confronted with a seemingly impassable barrier; otherwise known as a very deep hole.

"Wow! Fall down there and be dead for a while," Buffy uttered.

"Yeah," Jonathan remarked, glancing at her. "Don't want that to happen." Slowly he reached out and grabbed hold of her wrist. "Come on. We've got a monster to..."

His last word was cut off as the beast appeared out of the darkness. Growling he struck Jonathan, sending him flying over the pit. The star fell unconscious on the other side.

The beast roared.

Buffy gulped.

 


"Buffy was right," Willow remarked. "Buffy was right."

"It doesn't sound very likely, does it?" Anya said.

"So if this is the world he created, what's the real world like?" Elita asked.

"I'm scared. Everything's going to change," Willow uttered.

"Well, actually it'll remain pretty much the same," Giles replied. "Except Jonathan won't be Jonathan - not our Jonathan, anyway."

"No! No! No!" Xander cried. "World without sunshine! World without joy!"

"But wait, it only changes back if Buffy kills this thing!" Cordelia cried. "I mean if she loses then we could be stuck in this wrong world forever!"

"Things looking up!" Xander decided. "I mean - we're all happy here right? You know if she doesn't get killed?"

"Giles, can Buffy do it?" Willow asked.

"I honestly don't know. She's never stood alone against something like this before."

 


Jonathan came to and rose from the floor of the cave. He advanced towards the area where the slayer was fighting the beast.

Suddenly he caught Buffy off guard and she tumbled. Jonathan grabbed hold of a stalactite, breaking off a piece to strike the monster with it. He hit the beast again, sending it to the floor. He struck him a third time as Buffy recovered.

"Jonathan, what do I do?" She asked.

"I think you're going to have to handle this one solo," Jonathan answered.

"What?" Buffy looked at him confused.

"You'll know, you used to," Jonathan replied, kicking the demon. "And the more you hurt it, the more I'll lose my.."

"What? Lose your..." Buffy stopped as he spun the monster towards her. Reacting, she tripped the beast, sending it to the floor. Behind him, Jonathan shuddered before seeking a nearby rock to conceal himself.

The beast rose but she struck out with her arm, making it fall again. "I remember this. This good." She struck the monster again, but this time it sent her to floor. As it charged towards her prone form, Buffy raised her legs, aiming them to it's chest, kicking it away from her.

Jonathan emerged from his hiding place as the beast backed away, before charging the slayer again. Silently he tackled it from behind, sending it over Buffy and into the pit. The force of the blow sent him following it.

Buffy grabbed his heel, saving his life, while the beast fell to his death.

Outside a great wave of light swept over the hellmouth, changing billboards, newspapers, movie marquees.

Super stardom was at an end.

 




"I can't believe we believed it," Willow remarked to the Scoobies the next morning as they assembled on campus.

"It seemed so real," Tara agreed.

"Well, in that world, it was real," Buffy reminded them.

"Alternate realities are neat," Anya uttered.

"You know what I'll always remember?" Xander remarked.

"The swimsuit calendar's sticking in my mind," Angel muttered. "And not in a good way."

"I'll always remember the way he made me feel about me. Valued, respected, sort of tingly," Xander paused to sigh. "Now I'm just empty."

"Poor Xander," Buffy commented. "I guess Jonathan hurt you most of all. Except of course, after Tara."

"I liked his clothes," Xander uttered. "He had really cool clothes."

Willow nodded. "Still not understanding how he got the house and everything."

"And who really did star in The Matrix?" Anya asked.

Buffy didn't hear who answered, she walked over to Jonathan, whom she caught sight of from across the campus.

"Hi," he greeted her. "I wasn't sure you'd come over. Everyone's mostly forgetting. But, I think some people are kind of angry."

"Yeah!" Buffy answered feelingly.

"Nobody's even talking to me. And the twins moved out."

"Why did you do it anyway?" Buffy asked. "No. I get why. How?"

"After the thing with the bell tower and the gun, I went to counselling. You know other kids with problems and one of them had this spell. He glossed right over the monster. Well, anyway I just wanted to apologise. Nobody was supposed to get hurt."

"Jonathan, you get why everyone is angry though, right? It's not just the monster. People didn't like being the little actors in your sock puppet theatre."

"You weren't!" He cried. "You weren't socks! We were friends."

Buffy shook her head. "Jonathan, you can't keep trying to make everything work out with some big gesture all at once. Things are complicated. They take time and work."

"Yeah, you're right," Jonathan replied sadly. "But I've never been very patient."

Buffy sighed as she watched him walk away, wondering if he ever would understand.

 


"I've gotta say something," Xander announced to Anya as they walked away from group to her next class. "'Cause ... I don't think I've made it clear." He came to a halt before her. "I'm in love with you. Powerfully, painfully in love. The things you do, the way you think, the way you move." He smiled at her. "I get excited every time I'm about to see you. You make me feel like I've never felt before in my life. Like a man." He paused before adding, "I just thought you might wanna know."

Anya smiled at him before catching his lips in hers.

The End.
To Be Continued In.

Triangle.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: This is a rewrite of the original episode, with necessary changes to fit into my cannon, including changing the opening scene. Enjoy.

Triangle.

"So, how many more after this?" Buffy as she lifted the latest box to carry into the mansion at 1902 Crawford Street.

Giles glanced in the dark expanse of the rental van he had hired. "Only five or six more," he assured her.

"Does that mean I can go soon?" Spike asked, coming to take one of the boxes. "Some of us have a business to run. And a former vengeance chick to yell at," he uttered darkly.

"I'm sorry, I just wanted to get a move on this before I went away," Giles replied as he lifted a box out.

"So you're worried about Ellis looking in the weapons cabinet but not the books on the occult and magic?" Spike queried.

"Well he might be able to crawl, but he certainly can't read yet," Giles replied.

"So you really think they might be able to help us?" Angel asked as he lifted another box out of the truck.

"Uh, if you mean are they gonna help us find out something about Glory, the resources that the Watchers Council has at their disposal," Giles paused in his musing as his tone of voice changed to wistful, "I mean the Central Library alone is just..."

"Don't talk about the books again," Buffy mildly admonished. "You get all ..." she trailed off, failing to find the appropriate description, "and sometimes there's drool."

"I'm sorry," Giles apologised, "but we've really exhausted the materials I have here, and we're coming up empty."

"So, Glory's all you're gonna talk to them about, right?" Buffy asked. "Answer me." She prompted as Giles suddenly refused to meet her gaze.

"I'm not gonna mention Elita's name," her former watcher eventually answered. "I wouldn't do that, I promise."

"But you're gonna tell them about the key?" Angel asked. "That Glory's looking for something called the key?"

"Well, knowing her goal is crucial. I mean, if anything helps them uncover her origins, her plans."

Buffy sighed. "I know," she admitted. "It's just I trust these Watchers about as far as ... you could throw them," she added.

"Thank you very much," Giles remarked, though he wasn't that offended.

"You know what I mean," Buffy replied. "Ever since they refused to help Angel, we quit from them."

"They were right," Angel couldn't help but add, causing his girlfriend to glare at him. "No they weren't," she remarked. "But we won't get into that. I quit them, and you followed. And I'm grateful for that, so I just hate having to turn to them now." She sighed and sat on the ledge of the open rental van. "I'm just freaked about the idea of giving them any information that could possibly lead them to Elita. I know we've only known her for a few weeks, but I feel........."

"Protective of her," Angel helpfully added. "It's only natural, beloved, as a slayer."

"Not just as a slayer," Buffy continued. "She may not say a lot, she may just sit with us silently all the time, like Tara does, but she's here, and there's something about her that calls on me to protect her, almost as a friend, no, a sister would." She paused. "When the spell Jonathan did ended, I was so relieved that Glory hadn't found her in all that confusion. And now we need to go the Council. The last time one of them visited, I had to undergo the Cruciamentum. What if their help comes with a price? And what if it's price we can't pay?"

Giles joined her, placing a comforting arm about her shoulder. "Truly, Buffy, if I saw an alternative, I would take it," he assured her. "But there's nothing. And if you don't want me to go, I won't."

"If it helps us find out something about Glory," Buffy paused. "Then it's worth it." She rose from the van and headed inside.

Giles, Angel and Spike watched her enter the mansion before any of them uttered a word amongst themselves.

"How is she?" Giles asked his fellow professor.

Angel shrugged. "As you see her. Freaked and worried. But she knows you're right. We have to ask them for help."

"Well, I better take this back to the rental lot," Giles remarked. "And then break the news of my departure to the rest of them."

 



"You're going away for a week? That's great!" Anya cried.

"Yes, yes, everybody seems delighted about it," Giles uttered sarcastically.

"I'm envious, Mr. Giles," Tara remarked. "A trip to England sounds so exciting and exotic."

"Unless you're English," Spike remarked gently, wrapping an arm round her waist. "Mind you, it's changed a lot since I last spent any time there."

Angel nodded. "Was at least a couple of centuries ago."

"Well, don't worry about us, we'll be fine while you're away," Cordelia remarked.

"I'm not," Giles replied. "I know I can expect you all to be responsible adults."

"Don't know about that," Anya muttered.

"I am going to miss you all," Giles continued. "Particularly you," he added as he lifted Ellis into his arms. "And you," he added, kissing his wife.

"Get a room," Anya remarked.

"You lot do it infront of me all the time," Giles returned. "Why can't we?"

"It's icky," Anya answered before returning to the cash register.

"Maybe we can start meetings at the mansion," Spike remarked, leaving Tara's side to move Anya away from the source of her monetary obsession. "Perhaps I would have more customers then," he added.

"We help you out, don't we?" Willow asked.

"If by help you mean steal supplies, then yeah," Spike returned with a glare.

"I don't steal," Willow said, slightly insulted. "And you never complain anyway," she added. "Why now?"

"It's been pointed out to me that it's a waste of profits," Spike remarked, with a look to Anya.

"You don't care about money," Willow cried. "That's Anya talking!"

"In this case, she's right, luv," Spike remarked.

Anya beamed. "I knew I was."

"That still doesn't mean about everything," Spike added.

"Xander, tell him," Anya appealed to her boyfriend.

The owner of the Bronze turned to his best friend. "So, how goes the slaying?"

"I killed something in a convent last night," Buffy replied.

"In any other room, a frightening declaration. Here, a welcome distraction," Xander remarked gratefully while his girlfriend glared at him. "Tell us all about the killing, Buff."

"Pretty standard vampire staking," Buffy replied.

"Ahh, convents," Spike remarked. "Angel used to have a thing about them and churches, didn't ya?"

"My demon did," Angel corrected.

"Okay, now we're back to frightening," Xander remarked.

Giles sighed turning to Jenny. "They won't even notice I'm gone," he said softly to her.

"They might," Jenny remarked, "once the latest demon attack arrives."

 


"What about henbane?" Tara asked.

"Good," Willow agreed. "And hellebore. It's up and to the right."

Tara took down the vial to her. "Hellebore, one of my favourites."

"It's powerful stuff," Willow added as they walked over to the counter. "I tried to use it to de-rat Amy, and it didn't work. But I think it might have made her really smart. She keeps giving me these looks like she's planning something. Rubbing her paws together."

"Hey. What are you two doing?" Anya asked them.

"Oh, we're gonna try out a few spells," Willow replied.

"There's this thing you can do where you create light, and we thought, what if you could make, like, simulated sunlight?" Tara added.

"Yeah, so then, you know, there Buffy is, middle of the night, and she finds this whole nest of vamps, a-and then she just goes, 'Presto!'"

"Only it won't be 'presto' exactly," Tara remarked.

"And, and voom!" Willow cried. "There's a floating ball of sunlight. Vamps get dusty."

"You don't wanna look right at it, though," Tara pointed out.

"That's swell, but you can't use this stuff," Anya remarked. "Spike agreed with me that you've gotta pay. Giles has only been gone two days and you're already causing trouble. You shouldn't do things while he's gone."

"You're the fish!" Willow cried.

Anya looked at her puzzled. "What?"

"The, the fish in the bowl, in The Cat in the Hat. He was always saying that the cat shouldn't be there while the mother was out," Willow explained.

"What are you talking about?" Anya asked, still none the wiser.

"It's a book," Tara revealed. "This cat does all this mischief."

"It's so cute," Willow continued. "He balances a bunch of stuff, including that fish in the bowl! And, but don't try it for real when you're six, because then you're not allowed to have fish for five years."

"You're referencing literature I have no way to be familiar with," Anya remarked, annoyed. "You're trying to make me feel left out, and you're stealing!"

"I'm not stealing," Willow protested. "I'm just taking things without paying for them. In what twisted dictionary is that stealing?"

"Willow, maybe you should just pay," Tara uttered. "Spike may be my boyfriend, but he is right about us taking liberties with the supplies."

"Come on, it'll be fun," Willow argued. "We could show you how to do some stuff! You could be floating pencils by the end of the day."

Anya sighed. "Sometimes I miss having powers," she admitted, until she saw Willow's grin. "Oh! I know what this is! This is peer pressure! Any second now you're gonna make me smoke tobacco and, and have drugs."

"Look how easy it is," Willow uttered, before focusing on two of her still unpaid for purchases. Suddenly they rose from the counter.

"Hey! Don't float the merchandise!" Anya grabbed the items out of the air.

Willow turned and motioned a few more pieces.

"Stop that!" Anya cried.

"Hey, look at this, my two favourite girls!" Xander remarked as he entered the shop. "Three favourite girls," he corrected, seeing Tara.

"Xander, Willow's stealing. She's a burglar," Anya revealed.

"Right, the cunning, broad daylight in front of everyone burglar," Willow remarked. "Xander, I'm just doing a spell to help Buffy."

Xander nodded, not really sure what to say.

"Xander, you know what Spike said. Tell her," Anya added.

"Hey, hey, Judge Xander requesting a recess here," Xander remarked, glancing at the two of them uneasily.

"You really shouldn't pull him into this," Tara commented.

"Yeah, see? Tara's with me," Xander moved to stand beside her. "Protect me, Tara."

"Xander, what I'm doing, it's a good thing," Willow argued. "And if it doesn't work, Spike never even needs to know about it."

As she spoke, Willow took a pinch of powder from the pestle and mortar on the counter and sprinkled it on the cash register.

Which promptly disappeared in a puff of smoke.

"Oops," Willow uttered.

"The cash register!" Anya cried, panicked. "What did you do with the cash register? Dear god!"

"I'll fix it, I'll fix it!" Willow uttered. "Er, Recursat."

Fortunately for all concerned, the cash register reappeared, with a paper receipt trailing out of it, possibly charging for loss of profits in its temporary absence.

Willow breathed a sigh of relief. "There, all back. Good as new."

"Money. Did you hurt the money?" Anya asked as she pressed for the release of the tray to check. "Money good?" She took out some notes and shook them in the direction her boyfriend. "She endangered the money!"

"Of course, that's what she cares about," Willow muttered. "'I like money better than people. People can so rarely be exchanged for goods and or services.'"

"Xander, she's pretending to be me!" Anya cried.

"Well, can you even believe how she's acting?" Willow countered.

"Okay, you know what? I'm tired of being the one in the middle," Xander remarked. "I'm not gonna let you pull me into this."

"I'm not," Willow protested, but he cut her off.

"Whatever the issue is between you two, just figure it out without me," Xander finished, before walking out of the shop.

"Xander, don't go!" Anya cried.

In vain as it turned out, for the door slammed behind his departing figure.

"You made him mad," Willow said.

The former vengeance demon glared at her. "Me?!"

"Tara, who do you think he was more mad at?" Willow asked.

"Um, you know? I think, uh, maybe, maybe you guys have some stuff you need to work out, you know, just really ... talk," Tara remarked. "Plus, anymore and I'd be obligated to tell Spike," she added before walking out.

 


The nightly hour passed, leaving the witch and former vengeance demon staring at each other, until one decided to ignore the other, and the advice they had been given, by mixing up a potion.

"Fleabane," Willow remarked, sprinkling the stuff into the mortar.

"Fifteen cents," Anya remarked, tapping the amount into the cash register.

"Salamander eyes," Willow added the ingredient.

"Ten bucks for twelve," Anya added, tapping away. "Bargain."

"Bindweed," Willow uttered.

"Ugh, ooh, that's a pricey one," Anya murmured.

"Would you stop that?" Willow asked her. "It's very distracting."

Anya huffed. "Fine. Make your little ball of sunshine. I'll be quiet."

Willow missed the sarcasm in Anya's tone. "Good, because this spell is very sensitive. Once I begin, any non-ritual word can disrupt it."

"Fine," Anya forced the word out.

"Okay, here we go," Willow announced, pouring the mixed into a cauldron. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply.

"Did you start yet?" Anya asked.

"Shh, no! This is it," Willow cried. "Spirits of light, I invoke thee. Let the gloom of darkness part before you."

A small ring of sunlight rose from the cauldron and began to spin.

"Let the moonlight be made pale by your presence," Willow continued. "Spirits-"

"Is it done?" Anya asked.

"Shh!!!" Willow commanded, as the ring grew larger. "Spirits of light, grant my wishes."

"Sorry, I thought you were done," Anya apologised.

"Do you wanna screw this up?" Willow yelled at her.

The ring of sunlight grew larger and spun a little unevenly.

"No. No.," Anya remarked. "I'm sure you can do that all on your own."

"Hey Anya, whatever really has you mad, why don't you just say it, like you do every other thought that stomps through your brain?" Willow countered.

"I believe I have said it," Anya protested.

"No. You haven't. Come on. Let it out!" Willow yelled.

The circle of sunlight, currently forgotten, suddenly dropped through the glass counter top, touching a large crystal within. The resulting combination produced a big flash of light, and a large demon appearing before them.

Forgetting their fight in favour of their fright, Willow and Anya shrieked and clutched at each other.

The large demon really resembled more of a troll or giant. He stumbled around, using the large hammer in his hand to regain his balance. He glanced at himself, then at the two girls before him, whereupon he roared loudly.

Anya and Willow shrieked again.

Roaring finished, the troll turned and raised his hammer, smashing the glass counter, sending merchandise flying.

"He's not a ball of sunshine," Willow uttered, before she and Anya silently agreed upon heading for the streets outside, running like hell.

 


"New semester, new classes," Buffy remarked to Tara in the more civilised setting of the Sunnydale university campus lecture halls. "Whole new vistas of knowledge to be confused and intimidated by."

"I think this one's gonna be kind of fun," Tara commented. "Classics is gonna touch on so many things; mythology, history, philosophy..."

"The professor spit too much when he talked," Buffy whispered to her. "It was like being at Sea World. 'The first five rows will get wet.'"

Tara laughed. "That was just, you know, um, enthusiasm."

"It seemed very much like saliva," Buffy replied.

"We'll sit farther back next time," Tara proposed.

"Good plan," Buffy agreed. "I need to keep this course. The only other thing that fits into my schedule is Central American Geopolitics."

"Hmm," Tara grimaced in feeling.

"But not for me the furrowed brow," Buffy added, smiling. "What do you say we go pick up Willow and indulge ourselves in a little after-school hamburger?"

Tara nodded. "I guess we could. She might still be at the Magic Box. I was there earlier, and she and Anya kinda got in this little squabble ... Xander and I sort of cleared out, he was pretty upset."

"I don't blame him, those two are putting him in the middle far too much lately," Buffy remarked. "Not to mention you with the using of supplies at the shop."

"Spike doesn't mind," Tara added, "but I know sometimes, we take the fact that he owns it for granted."

"And by we, you mean Willow," Buffy asserted. "It's alright, you know. It is the truth after all. Willow has been too free with the ingredients recently."

"You're concerned, aren't you?" Tara sought to confirm.

"I am," Buffy confessed. "When you and Jenny are with her, monitoring, everything's fine. But when she's alone, the spells tend to get out of hand. And I'm the one clearing up the mess."

"Perhaps we ought to seek out Spike and Angel instead?" Tara offered.

"No, we should check up on them," Buffy replied. "The mood Anya's in, she might decide to use Willow as an audition back into the vengeance gig."

 


Meanwhile, across town, Giles' car,- which the girls had managed to appropriate from his and Jenny's apartment, raced along the roads after the trail of chaos which the giant troll had left in his wake, when he exited the Magic Box, having tired of trashing the store for the moment.

"There, that parked car!" Anya cried. "We're still on his trail."

Willow continued to peer at the spell books before her while Anya drove. "I don't even get how we made that guy, because, wow, advanced!"

"No one made him," Anya corrected. "He must have been trapped in that crystal, and you released him."

"I released him?" Willow echoed. "No, this was definitely a we thing. Or, or a you thing! It definitely feels like a you thing."

"Look, just find the reversal spell," Anya cried. "And hurry! Look what he did to that lamppost!"

"I'm trying," Willow uttered. "Put the top up, the pages are all blowy!"

"Well, I don't know how to put the top up, I only just figured out what the left pedal does." Anya smiled at her. "It makes us stop!" She slammed on the brakes, making the tires screech on the asphalt, causing Willow to grab the side door handle for balance.

Anya resumed driving.

"You don't know how to drive?" Willow asked her in horror. "Why didn't you say you don't know how to drive?"

"Well, I couldn't know if I could until I tried, could I?" Anya countered.

"This is very, very bad," Willow murmured. "There, there's an ogre on the loose."

"Troll," Anya corrected.

"What?" Willow asked.

"Troll on the loose. Now hold on, I'm gonna press the right pedal harder. I expect us to accelerate."

"There's a troll on the loose, and you're gonna crash Giles' car!" Willow yelled over the increasing engine noise.

Anya nodded complacently. "It's likely. We're going very fast. You should have listened to me and not done the spell. Xander agreed."

"Oh, right. Xander doesn't step out of line," Willow murmured.

Anya looked at her. "Well, what do you mean by that?"

"Nothing," Willow turned her gaze to the road.

"Just find that spell quickly!" Anya yelled as she increased the speed once more.

 


"Hey, watch it," Spike growled as someone brushed past him. "Oh, it's you," he uttered, catching sight of the proprietor.

"Spike, don't let me stop you from not being here," Xander commented. "I have a right to refuse service to anyone."

"You wouldn't dare," Spike taunted.

"Uh-huh. Go away," Xander placed his hands on the counter of the bar.

"Now why would I do that, when it's bugging you so much having me here?" Spike countered. "You have beer, and those chicken wings too. Also a sort of a flower-shaped thing they make from an onion. It's brilliant."

"Are you talking to me hoping that I'll get so depressed that I'll impale myself on a fork right in front of you?" Xander asked.

"Lovely thought," Spike remarked with a grin. "If I don't hurt you myself, the chip wouldn't zap me. I could eat you that way. Beat the onion thing all to hell."

He reached out and grabbed a handful of peanuts.

Xander slapped his hand away. "I just barred you!"

"My, my. Someone's in a temper," Spike commented. "I can always fire your girl you know."

"If it saves me having to be in the middle of her and Willow, then go ahead," Xander replied, surprising the chipped vampire.

"In between two girls," Spike remarked. "That sounds interesting. Do tell."

 


"This is very bad." Buffy remarked as she and Tara cautiously entered the domain of the Magic Box store, dodging the debris of the counter. "Willow? Anya?"

Tara went to the back room, but soon returned empty handed. "They're not back there either, they're gone. Buffy, something's been here."

"Don't worry," Buffy replied. "Come on, this thing's probably leaving a huge trail." She took her hand and they ran out of the shop.

 


"Puny receptacle!" Troll cried as he sent a dumpster flying. He hit another inanimate object with his hammer, the mailbox, which flew towards the dumpster.

The good and scared citizens of Sunnydale began to back away from him in rising fear and terror.

Troll roared. "You do well to flee, townspeople! I will pillage your lands and dwellings! I will burn your crops and make merry sport with your more attractive daughters! Ha ha ha! Mark my words!" He paused to sniff the air. "Ooh, Ale! I smell delicious ale!!"

He headed to the darkness of the Bronze.

 


"And they get in these fights, and they're both looking at me like I'm the referee," Xander continued to pour his trouble out to Spike over a game of pool. "Also, sometimes I'll say something about Anya, and Willow will get this look, this, um, 'what the hell do you see in her,' look."

Spike nodding in feeling. "I know that look. Lot of people never really got Dru, you know."

"Well, she was insane," Xander remarked, causing Spike to look momentarily insulted, before slightly nodding in agreement. "Then it's like, well, I get all torn. Because, Willow's my best friend and I really value her opinion, but, uh, Anya's my girlfriend, you know?"

"Hmm," Spike remarked. "Difficult sit, mate." He stumbled as someone brushed past him. "Hey, watch it, mate." Suddenly he caught sight of the troll. "On second thought, do what you like."

"Ale! Yes!" Troll cried and walked over to one of Xander's workers carrying kegs in the direction of the store room.

"Ah, fragrant ale!" Troll cried before lifting up a keg to drink.

"So, uh ... think I should run and get Buffy?" Xander asked Spike.

"Barmaid! Bring me stronger ale, and some plump, succulent babies to eat," Troll demanded of a nearby waitress.

"I'm gonna run and get Buffy," Xander decided. "Or maybe you could fight him."

"Yeah, I could do that, but I'm paralysed with not caring very much," Spike replied.

"You there!" Troll caught sight of them and strode towards them. "Do you know where there are babies?"

Spike turned to Xander. "What do you think, the hospital?"

"What? Shut up!" Xander turned to the Troll. "Um ... listen.."

"I find myself very hungry," Troll said. "And when I'm hungry I grow short of patience."

"Well, we can take care of the hungry, so how's about you just sit down in one of the ... sturdier chairs, and we can ... have a calm talk and something to eat," Xander suggested.

"Can it be babies?" Troll asked.

"Well, not so much," Xander added. "But maybe ... some roast pigs, and ... stags, and ... much hearty grog."

"He's got this onion thing..." Spike began.

"You cannot appease me! Do not try!" Troll cried. "More ale!"

Spike and Xander took good use of the Troll's turning to the bar and darted to the door. Opening it, they were confronted with Anya and Willow.

"Xander! You shouldn't be here. There's a troll," Anya warned, putting her arms around him.

"Uh, a big guy? Hammer?" Xander asked her. She nodded. "I think I noticed him," he added, pointing to where the Troll was draining another keg of beer.

"I wish Buffy was here," murmured Willow.

The door opened and Buffy ran in, followed by Tara. "I'm here," Buffy uttered.

"I wish I had a million dollars," Willow uttered, making everyone glance at her. "Just checking."

"What's going on? Where did he come from?" Buffy asked. "And who trashed the Magic shop?"

"Someone trashed the Magic shop?" Spike growled, looking at Anya.

"Willow stole ingredients and released him from a purple crystal. He's a troll," Anya explained.

"You did this?" Buffy asked her friend.

"Me? No, we. I mean, us," Willow argued, gesturing to Anya. "Uh, her. It's very complex."

"You trashed the Magic shop?" Spike growled at them.

"Er, technically, he did," Anya replied, pointing at the Troll. "We can stop him. Willow, do the spell."

"Uh, let the conjuring be..."

"Stop!" Troll cried.

"Nobody lets me finish!" Willow protested annoyed.

"You ... told the witch to do that, Anyanka," Troll said, looking at the former vengeance demon. "You seem determined to put an end to all my fun. Just like you always did when we were dating!"

All at once Buffy, Tara, Willow, Spike and Xander stared at Anya.

"Uh, um.." Anya began nervously.

"You dated him?" Xander sought to confirm.

"You dated a troll?" Buffy asked.

"And we're what, surprised by this?" Willow added.

"Well, Olaf wasn't a troll then!" Anya protested. "You know, he was just a big dumb guy, and ... well, you know, he cheated on me and I made him into a troll, which by the way is how I got the job as a vengeance demon."

Troll roared and the hit the counter with his hammer. "I did not cheat! Not in my heart. It was only one wench! I, I had had a great deal of mead! Next thing I know, I'm a troll! Ohh ... ohh ... you did this, Anyanka. You will die for this."

"But, but, you seem to enjoy the, the being a troll," Xander pointed out.

Troll shrugged. "I adjusted. And then what happened? Witches. Filthy, dirty, disgusting witches. They trapped me. I was imprisoned in that crystal for centuries. Ohh, a curse on all witches! All must die!"

"Willow, again," Buffy requested.

"Let the conjuring be undone. Return the beast to native form," Willow enchanted.

"Witch, you must stop!" Olaf roared.

"Keep it far from us and ours as long as my voice shall sound," Willow uttered.

Nothing happened, causing Olaf to laugh. "It did not work!"

Willow hurriedly began flicking through the book. "Okay, wait! Uh, Let the conjuring...."

Olaf lunged forward, only for Buffy to kick him in the chest. She drove him backwards, kicking and punching, Spike following her, offering support where he could.

Seizing Olaf, Buffy shoved him on to the pool table, grappling for the hammer.

"Er, Buff, could you mind that, it cost a lot of money," Xander called out.

Olaf pushed the slayer away, causing her to fall back into Spike and on to the floor. They got up in time to witness him smashing his hammer into the pillars which supported the mezzanine floor of the nightclub. The resulting shake caused people to run and Xander to clutch his head in his hands, groaning at the cost of probable repairs.

Olaf smashed another pillar, sending the mezzanine crashing to the floor.

 


"Buffy!" Angel cried as he rushed to help lift away the large piece of wood which was crushing her. He had arrived along with the others of the Slayerettes after Xander managed to reach the telephone to alert them to the situation.

"Where is he?" Buffy asked as her beloved helped her up.

"Gone," Willow informed her.

"Xander, follow him," Buffy ordered. "Anya, Willow, head back to the magic shop, find a spell that will actually stop him. The rest of you, help these lot until the paramedics arrive."

Orders received the slayerettes nodded and began shifting debris out of the way and dressing what wounds they could with the first aid kit behind the bar.

Some time later the noise of the sirens alerted them to the arrival of more trained help then them.

"Come on," Buffy uttered. "Xander's gonna need backup."

 


"Hurry up!" Willow cried to Anya. "I'm taking everything on relocation spells, suspension spells, and, what the heck, spells to make him really sleepy, 'cause, slightly better."

"In case we need 'em, I'm getting more of all the things you stole," Anya remarked, arming herself with potion supplies.

"I didn't - why do you do that?" Willow asked.

"What?" Anya asked.

"You're so rude! I mean, sure, at first, ex-demon, doesn't know the rules. Well, you been here forever. Learn the rules."

"Rules are stupid," Anya remarked.

"Great, whatever. I just thought you might be interested in learning to act more human. Some of us enjoy it. Oh, look for, uh, spells with dimensional portals too."

"I am a human. And there are ... many humans who are stranger than me," Anya protested.

"Uh-huh, but, unless I'm really wrong about crazy Larry down at the bus stop, he's probably not gonna turn Xander into a troll."

"Well, now, that's a very complicated proced...." Anya stopped in sudden realisation. "Oh. You think I'm gonna hurt Xander? I would never hurt Xander! You really think I would do that!"

"Anya, it's what you do. You spent what, a thousand years hurting men?"

"I was a demon then, and, and I don't even have any powers now!" Anya offered up a entry from one of the books around them. "Is this the spell?"

"Only if you want him to double in size, and grow extra arms, which ... let's not. And by the way, you weren't a demon when you turned Olaf into Lord of the Hammers. You managed that. Also, there's other ways to hurt Xander."

"I don't do magic now," Anya pointed out. "You're the one with that kind of power. Infact, you're closer to being a vengeance demon than I am, maybe Xander should be afraid of you."

"Xander's my best friend!" Willow cried. "And how, I've never had a boyfriend cheat on me."

"Oh, and you don't want anyone else to have him. You're always doing everything you can to, to point out how much I'm an outsider. You've known him since you were squalling infants together. You'll always know him better than I do. You could sweep in and, and poison his mind against me."

"You're insane! I am not gonna take him away and I am not gonna hurt him," Willow yelled at her.

"Well, I'm not either!" Anya yelled back.

The sound of the door being smashed in brought them back to the situation at hand.

"Aha!" Olaf cried as he walked up to them. "I knew it. You two, performing more spells. I could be out pillaging, devouring babies, making merry with the local virgins, but instead, I had to come all the way back here to kill you."

"Run!" Willow cried, but Olaf grabbed them around their waists and threw them over the counter.

"No, get away from them!" Xander cried as he ran inside.

"I will get away from them, after I kill them," Olaf replied.

"You are not touching these women," Xander said, running at him.

Olaf held out his hammer, and Xander impacted upon it, wincing as he fell down. The troll picked him up by the shirt. Xander attempted a swipe at his face. Olaf aimed the hammer at his, sending him across the room.

Xander rose from the floor.

"Ah, you wish for more? Admirable!" Olaf cried.

Xander ran forward and punched him once more. He raised his arm to punch again, but the troll grabbed the arm with one hand, using the other which held his hammer to hit the boy again.

Xander fell to the floor. Olaf grabbed him and slid him into another display cabinet, smashing the glass.

Undeterred, Xander rose and mounted the stairs which led to the books at the back of the shop. Midway he launched himself at the troll.

Olaf caught him easily and sent him back to the floor. "You fight well, although you are a tiny man," he laughed. "I shall reward you. Only one of your women shall die, and you shall be the one to choose."

Willow turned to Anya. "Did he just say-"

Olaf laughed, cutting off whatever she was about to say. "Ha ha. Choose! Anyanka or the witch. One of your women must die."

"No," Xander replied. "You are one crazy troll, I ... I'm not choosing between my girlfriend and my best friend. That's insane troll logic."

"Go, Xander," Anya cheered. "I love you."

Olaf laughed again. "Good for you. You are a loyal man." He grabbed Xander's wrist and snapped the bone inside the skin.

"Xander!" Willow and Anya cried.

"Now. Choose!" Olaf roared.

"Olaf, no!" Anya cried at the troll.

"I'm not choosing," Xander protested.

"Then you shall be the one who dies," Olaf decided, raising his hammer.

"No!" Anya cried. "Choose me! Just don't take him! Don't take Xander!" She pleaded.

Willow grabbed some powder and threw it at the troll. "E conspectu abeat monstrum," she enchanted.

The cash register decided to disappear again.

"Damn," Willow uttered.

"Buffy!" Anya cried as she ran in. "Buffy, the hammer! The strength's in the hammer!" She warned.

Olaf swung the hammer at the slayer, who ducked and him again.

"How can I help?" Anya asked as Willow began fixing more ingredients.

"Distract him from Buffy," Willow suggested. "uh, piss him off."

"I don't know how," Anya murmured.

"Anya, I have faith in you. There is no one you cannot piss off," Willow assured her, causing the former vengeance demon to smile with pride.

She rushed to where the slayer and the troll were fighting over possession of the hammer. "Hey Olaf! You're as inadequate a troll as you were a boyfriend! Uh, you're hairy, and unattractive, and even women trolls are put off by your various odours."

"Instrumentum ultionis, telum fabuloso, surge, surge, terram pro voca," Willow enchanted at the hammer, which glowed green for a moment, as its master lifted the slayer by the throat.

"Your menacing stance is merely alarming!" Anya cried. "And your roar is less than full-throated!"

"Desist!" Olaf cried, tossing the slayer to the floor and turning on his former girlfriend. "My god, woman, it's been a thousand years, and yet you are as aggravating and emasculating as ever you were." He swung the hammer.

"Vola cum viribus, dominum tuum nega. Vola!" Willow cried.

The hammer glowed green once more and flew out of Olaf's hand mid swing.

"Hey, good job," Anya praised.

"You too, very irritating," Willow uttered in kind.

"So. Your power's in your hammer?" Buffy asked before rushing towards him.

Olaf swiped her back towards the floor once more.

"Oh, yeah! I forgot he still has all that troll strength," Anya apologised.

"You shall all die! I will dispense no mercy now!" Olaf roared.

Buffy rose and punched him in the face continuously.

"What are you fighting for, minuscule blonde one?" Olaf asked her as he tossed her back to the floor. "Your friends? These two? They will never last. Anyanka is very difficult to live with, and he's ludicrous and far too breakable. Their love will never last."

Determined, Buffy rose to her feet and flipped herself over Olaf's head. He bent over, and she spun round to kick him in the chest, this time driving across the room.

"She's got him now," Willow uttered as Angel and the cavalry, otherwise known as the rest of the slayerettes, entered.

"Poor baby," Anya mourned at her boyfriend's wrist.

"You really dated him?" Xander asked her.

Anya grimaced. "Yes."

"But you like me better, right?" Xander sought.

"Yes! And Willow's not gonna try to break us up, so, you know, it's all okay."

Buffy smashed Olaf to the floor.

"Let the transposition be complete," Willow uttered.

Olaf dissolved into nothingness.

"Where did you send him?" Buffy asked.

"The land of the trolls," Anya replied. "He'll like it there. Full of trolls."

"It's hard to be precise, though," Willow added. "Alternate universes don't stay put. Trying to send him to a specific place is sort of like ... like ... trying to hit a ... puppy, by throwing a live bee at it. Which is a weird image, and you should all just forget it."

"It's possible that he's in the land of perpetual Wednesday ... or the crazy melty land ... or, you know, the world without shrimp," Anya added.

"There's a world without shrimp?" Tara asked. "I'm allergic," she added to Spike.

"He's probably in troll land," Willow uttered.

"I only care that he's not here, and I got this nifty souvenir," Buffy replied, putting the hammer on the counter top.

Which promptly collapsed under the weight.

"Oops," Buffy looked apologetically at Spike.

The chipped vampire shrugged. "The place is trashed enough anyway. And you lot are going to clean it up right now," he added with a growl.

Slayerettes glanced at one another, then at him, and obeyed.

 


"I cringe to think what would have happened if I'd been away for longer than three days," Giles murmured as he leaned back into the comfortable confines of the sofa at the Mansion on Crawford Street some hours later.

"Well, maybe we would have had time to clean it up," Buffy remarked. "You know, if Willow used some magic to help."

"Yes, 'cause nothing could possibly go wrong with that," Giles returned.

"Rupert, I still don't understand why the other Watchers made you go all the way to England when they don't know anything," Jenny remarked.

"Well, they don't know it ... yet," Giles replied. "I mean, they have no record of, Glory or anyone like her, but, based on the information that I've given them, they're gonna look into it. They might have something soon."

"What about the key? Were they all over it?" Buffy asked nervously.

"Yes," Giles replied. "You, you know all of this?" He asked Joyce.

"I got some of it myself, Buffy told me the rest," Joyce replied.

"Well, they're interested, certainly, and full of theories," Giles sipped his tea. "Most of them nonsensical."

"They don't know that it's Elita," Angel asked.

"No," Giles assured them.

"I still can't begin to grasp this," Joyce murmured. "She's just a little girl. Barely the same as Buffy when she was called."

"It is disorienting," Giles agreed.

"Giles, what happens if they figure it out? What would they do?" Buffy asked.

"I don't know," Giles confessed.

At the rails of the grand staircase which overlooked the mansion's double height living room, Elita frowned as she listened to the conversation.

Wondering what she do about all they had learned.

The End
To Be Continued In

Checkpoint.

Chapter Text

Author's note: The dialogue, with necessary changes to fit with my canon, was taken from the original episode. Enjoy.

Checkpoint.

No more than a week had passed by before Giles summoned the slayerettes to a meeting at the Mansion on Crawford Street.

"Thank you all for coming," he began when drink and snacks had been dealt out and everyone was sitting quietly around the double height living room. "I've had some rather, ... well, I've had some news. It seems that the Council of Watchers has found some information that may help us out."

"About Glory?" Buffy asked hopefully.

"Presumably," Giles replied. "We'll find that out when they arrive. Could be very important."

"Arrive?" Buffy echoed his word worriedly. "They're coming here? Now? Why do they have to come here?"

"Yeah, don't they have phones?" Xander argued. "Allo, Buffy, here's some stuff we know, pip pip," he added, affecting a very fake British accent.

"Yeah! Phones. See, I'd like them on phones," Buffy added.

"Well, what's so bad about them coming here?" Tara asked. "Aren't they good guys? I mean, Watchers, that's just like other Gileses and Wesleys, right?"

"No, they're scary and horrible!" Buffy informed her.

"They, well, they can appear a bit well, uh, hard-nosed, but, uh, well, essentially, their agenda is the same as ours, they want to save the world and kill demons," Giles defended carefully.

"Kill the current demons, right?" Anya sought to confirm. "Current demons."

"Giles, I don't want them to come here," Buffy uttered softly. "I don't trust them. Make them not come here."

"They're probably already on their way," Giles informed her sadly. "Our old friend Quentin Travers is heading up the delegation."

"They put me through that test, and it almost killed me," Buffy remarked, referring to the Cruicamentum, although she put herself through it to save Giles' job. "And with all the troubles the hellmouth has thrown at us recently, honestly, I really can't handle almost being killed right now."

"I don't like the sound of this," Anya murmured. "They don't sound very ex-demon-compatible."

"It's all right for you, luv," Spike remarked, "at least you're human. I'm still a vampire, and a very concerned one right now."

"Are you sure they're English?" Tara asked. "I thought English people were, um, gentler, then, uh, normal.."

"Maybe it won't be so bad this time," Willow offered.

"They are just coming to give you information on Glory," Doyle added. "Chances are, it's the sort that needs to be told face to face, that's all."

"They're gonna screw everything up," Buffy replied. "They're gonna disapprove of Angel, Spike, Doyle, wonder why I'm living with two vampires and a fifteen year old girl. And then there's Glory. I don't need the Council looking over my shoulder when I don't even know what we're dealing with."

"Well, that's precisely why we need to talk to them," Giles reminded her. "If the Council knows something about Glory, her agenda or her origins, then maybe it will help us get a, grip on what we're dealing with. Right now I think we're a bit lost."


While her enemies were in conference, Glory was the middle of a crisis herself, tossing and turning in her richly upholstered bed coverings upon the floor before that article of furniture, a high fever ruling her mortal shell.

The doors banged open as Dreg and another minion dragged a hapless mailman inside to alleviate their boss' pains. "Mistress, at last we've found one." They threw him to the floor beside her.

"Look, don't hurt me," the mailman pleaded. "I beg of you, if you just let me go, I swear I won't tell anyone."

Dreg pulled the victim upright. "Help her!" he directed his assistant.

The minion assisted Glory towards the mortal. "We're here for you, great one."

Glory put her hands up on the mailman, as he cried his final words. "Oh, what is this? What the, what the hell are you things doing to me?"

A stream of bright white light streaked from her fingers, encompassing the victim's head, as sacrifice and receiver screamed in agony and ecstasy until sanity was restored.

"Very good, delicious," Dreg murmured in awe.

Glory fell back to the floor, greatly recovered, brushing away any help. "No, I'm good. It's okay."

The mailman rose muttering insanely. "I know you're all always looking at me. I can tell. Always tell. I can see. I, my hat, where's my hat?" he wandered off.

Glory groaned and then laughed with relief. "Try not cutting things so close next time, understood?"

"Yes, we live to serve," Dreg uttered bowing.

"As always," the other uttered.

"Cool. Dreg, take this mess out with the rest of the trash. And Jinx, you have something to tell me?"

"Indeed, Glorificus," Jinx confirmed as he helped her up.

"Well, I'm waiting," Glory fetched her mirror, and began cleaning up her appearance.

"We have found that the signs of the alignment are moving faster than expected," Jinx reported.

"Meaning?" Glory queried.

"If you are to use the key, you must act quickly," Jinx explained.

"Fine," Glory put the mirror down. "I have been cooling my heels in this crappy little town long enough. Sunnydale's got too many demons and not enough retail outlets," she added, picking up a pair of shoes.

"All you need is the key," Jinx reminded.

"Yes, and I bet Mousy the Vampire Slayer has an idea where it is," Glory mused.

"If I may remind your eminence," Jinx continued, "you don't have much time."

Glory scoffed. "Baby, if that girl's the only thing between me and my key? I don't need much time."


The slayerettes were at the Magic Box when the deputation they were waiting for arrived. Giles was engaged in helping Spike out with a serious magic user over a certain purchase, when he was interrupted.

"Well, if you're serious about these matters, all right," he remarked to the customer as he handed her the book. "But you need to be very careful. Measure precisely, and, please don't step ahead."

"No, he's quite right," a voice said, and Giles looked up to see Travers along with six other watchers enter the shop.

Quentin Travers took one of the purchases from Giles and studied the leather bound volume thoughtfully. "You wouldn't want to do anything dangerous. Turn the wrong person into a badger," he smiled and returned the book.

"Quentin," Giles greeted, "I didn't realise you were here."

"Well, evidently," Travers returned.

"Been a while," Giles continued. "I see you've, uh, brought some of our ... colleagues with you. Would you care to introduce us?"

"Well, first I thought we might catch up," Travers said pointedly.

Behind him, the watchers began exploring the store.

"Well, certainly," Giles agreed. "This is the shop, obviously, owned by one of Buffy's friends. We all help him out occasionally. I'll give you the grand tour if you like."

"No, that's all right," Travers replied, "I think I can see what you've been up to," he added disapprovingly.

"Buffy and I have been training a great deal these days," Giles added. "There's a back room suited for such a ritual."

"Oh yes," Travers uttered. "I thought perhaps you were keeping that space for the really dangerous items that should be kept out of the public's hands. Or maybe you don't worry about that."

"This is not my shop," Giles added.

"Most of this stuff couldn't harm anyone," one of the male watchers remarked. "Incense, dime store trinkets ... but there are some things."

"I'm sorry, who are you?" Spike asked as he entered.

"There are some very potent elements here," one of the female watchers uttered, ignoring him. "Focusing crystals, runic artifacts, an amulet of Cauldis... Also this statue. It's removal from Burma is a criminal offence and when triggered, it has the power to melt human eyeballs."

"In that case, I severely underpriced it," Spike remarked.

Travers looked to him. "You are the owner, I take it?"

"Yes, mate," Spike remarked.

"I apologise, but this is just for the duration of our stay. I think you can see why."

"What is just for the duration?" Giles asked.

The male watcher raised his voice. "Magic Box shoppers! We're going to have to ask you to leave. The store is, uh, closing early today."

"Terribly sorry for the inconvenience," uttered another.

"Hey! Giles, what are they doing?" Anya asked, concerned. "Customers! Please bring your money back."

Giles glared at his boss. "You knew you were gonna do this before you even saw the place," he uttered.

"I'm sorry," Travers did not look in the least bit contrite. "It's just for the duration of the Council's review."

"Council?" Anya echoed. "You're the Council?" She dropped her annoyance. "Welcome to our store. We're closed now. I'll be in the back." She exited the room.

"What review, Quentin?" Giles queried, a pit of unease growing within his stomach. "Let's just stop a moment and talk about this."

Travers stopped Anya. "Miss, excuse me, you work here?"

"Yes I do," Anya replied. "Ever since I moved here from south-eastern Indiana, where I was raised by both a mother and a father."

"Anya, just go," Giles advised. "You don't have to talk to him. Now tell me about this review. No one said anything to me about this."

"Let's sit down and talk about it over here," Travers directed.

They gathered around the large research table, Giles eyeing each one of the watchers, before directing a look to Spike, unspoken warning in his expression.

"You all stand around and look sombre," he remarked to the others. "Good job," he added wryly when they obeyed.

"You used to respect us, Giles," Travers said. "You used to be one of us."

"You used to pay me," Giles replied.

"Touché." Travers sat down. "But you were on the inside once. You know what sort of resources we command. We've discovered information about this creature, your Glory. Some of it is clearly vital, the rest merely extremely disturbing. And it won't be handed over until we're convinced that you and your Slayer are prepared for it. Thus the review."

Giles put his hands on the table, his look about to match his soft, yet deadly, Ripper voice. "I'm not having you put her through another one of your insane tests."

"It's not a test," Travers replied. "It's a check of her methods. We need to know that this information is safe."

"You can trust her," Giles assured them. "Buffy's come very far recently. She's acquired a remarkable focus."


At Sunnydale university, the slayer was applying some of that focus, to good use, in the history lecture.

"Now, Rasputin was associated with a certain obscure religious sect. They held the tenet that in order to be forgiven, one first had to sin. Rasputin embraced this doctrine and proceeded to sin impressively and repeatedly. The notion that he was in fact evil gained strength years later when the conspirators who set out to kill him found it nearly impossible to do so."

"Nearly impossible?" Buffy murmured.

The professor caught the sound. "I'm sorry, there's a question?" he sighed as the students all looked to the small blonde girl. "Miss Summers, of course."

"I, uh, about, you know, killing him," Buffy remarked. "You know, they, they poisoned him and, and they beat him and they shot him, and he didn't die."

The professor nodded. "Until they rolled his body in a carpet and drowned him in a canal," he added.

"But there are reported sightings of him as late as the 1930s, aren't there?" Buffy queried thoughtfully.

"I can assure you there is near consensus in the academic community regarding the death of Rasputin," the professor replied.

"There was also near consensus about Columbus, you know, until someone asked the Vikings what they were up to in the 1400s, and they're like, discovering this America-shaped continent," Buffy countered, much to the lecturer's annoyance. "I just ... I'm only saying, you know, it might be interesting, if we .... came at it from, you know, a different perspective, that's all."

"Well, I'm sorry if you find these facts so boring, Miss Summers." the professor replied. "Maybe you'd prefer I step aside, so that you can teach your own course. Speculation 101 perhaps? Intro to Flights of Fancy?"

Buffy scowled, deciding to ask Giles later. "I only meant-"

"What was it you were going on about last week? Mysterious sleeping patterns of the Prussian generals? Now, some of us are here to learn. Believe it or not, we're interested in finding out what actually happened. It's called studying history. You can sit down now. Unless you have something else to add, professor?"

Buffy smiled. "No, thank you. But why don't you take this up with Mr Giles, later. I'm sure he would be fascinated to learn your theories."

The professor coughed, looking discomforted. The last time he had talked with Rupert Giles, he was forced to rewrite an entire thesis. "Moving on to Rasputin's relationship with the Romanov's," he continued.

The slayer let him waffle on, as she discreetly retrieved her cell, to see a message from Spike, announcing the watcher's arrival. Grimacing, she returned to class, silently strategising battle plans.


At Sunnydale General Hospital, Jinx rounded on a young intern anxiously. "Begging permission to speak with you, sir."

"Don't touch me, you're crusty," Ben replied as he was dragged into a store room. "What do you want?"

"Oh, not me, the magnificent Glory," Jinx replied. "She wants. She wants more information on the Slayer, she ... knows you know her."

"The Slayer?" Ben echoed. "I don't know any Slayer. Get away from me, you shouldn't be here."

"Oh, I believe you do, sir," Jinx countered. "She's short, symmetrical, hair on top? Buffy something."

"Buffy Summers is the Slayer?" Ben sought to confirm.

"That's the one! Very clever of you, sir." Jinx simpered.

"The Slayer," Ben murmured. "How does Glory know this?"

"I do not know, I was not there," Jinx replied. "But the beauteous Glory said for you to tell us please, where her dwelling is ... who her friends are..."

"Why?" Ben countered. "So Glory can find her, do something to her?" he frowned. "Why would I do that?"

"I don't know, sir, she just said to tell you to do it," Jinx replied. "For her. That was her message."

"Well, I've got a message for Glory too," Ben replied.

 


At the Magic Box, Giles was finishing the tour of the back training room, trying to muster some advantage over the Council delegation.

"We've been developing sort of a, a hybrid fighting style ... let me outline her progress for you and I think you'll see that your review isn't strictly needed."

Buffy opened the door, entered, caught sight of the watchers, and started to exit once more. "Bad day. Bad, baaad...."

"Miss Summers," Travers called out. "Good to see you again."

Reluctantly Buffy halted. "Mr. Travers."

"Giles has just been telling us of your training regimen," Travers continued. "Perhaps you'll favour us with a demonstration while we're here."

"Right now?" Buffy frowned.

"No need to rush you," Travers uttered.

"They're staying a little longer than I'd anticipated," Giles informed her.

We've already laid out our project for Mr. Giles." Travers turned to one of his delegation. "Nigel?"

"It's an exhaustive examination of your procedures and abilities," Nigel explained. "We'll observe your training, talk to your friends..."

"Talk to my friends?" Buffy queried.

"Yes, we understand you're still taking civilians out on patrols," Travers added.

"Oh, you've gotta be kidding me," Buffy murmured. "For your information, my friends are quite capable of defending themselves, some even more so."

"Buffy, I can sense your resistance, and I don't blame you," Travers replied. "But I think your Watcher hasn't reminded you lately of the resolute status of the players in our little game. The Council fights evil. The Slayer is the instrument by which we fight. The Council remains, the Slayers change. It's been that way from the beginning."

"Well, that's a very comforting, bloodless way of looking at it, isn't it?" Giles remarked scornfully.

"Giles, let me talk to Buffy, because I think she's understanding me," Travers replied. "Glory is stronger than you. She's a more powerful instrument, if you will. We can help you. We have information that will help. Pass the review and we give it to you without reservation. Fail the review, either through incompetence, or by resisting our recommendations..."

"Resisting your recommendations?" Giles growled. "She fails if we don't do whatever you say! How much under your thumb do you think we are?"

"How much do you want our help?" Travers countered.

Giles ignored him. "She's not your bloody instrument and you have no right to do any of this!"

"Giles!" Buffy cautioned as the watchers restrained him. He shook them off, glaring at every one of them.

"I understand you think this is unfair," Travers remarked. "But there are factors which should motivate you to go along with the review. Now, I don't want to do this, but obviously we could shut this place down permanently."

"You can't do that," Buffy remarked. "You don't have that kind of power over Spike. No one does."

"Of course we do, and a great deal more," Travers countered. "In fact, if you insist on fighting us, we'll arrange to have Mr. Giles deported within the day. Never set foot in this country again. Now perhaps you're used to idle threats and sloppy discipline, Miss Summers, but you're dealing with grownups now. Am I making myself clear?"

Buffy folded her arms, inwardly pissed off. "Crystal," she replied.

 


At her apartment, Glory looked up to see her minion returned, and frowned at the sight. "Jinx... hey, what's the deal with your face?"

Jinx lifted his bruised face to view. "It's a message from Ben. He isn't going to help."

Glory pored oil into her hands. "Isn't going to help?" She mused.

"No." Jinx affirmed.

"All he has to do is turn over that tiny squirming Slayer girl!" Glory cried as she rubbed the oil into her skin. "I have business to do with her. If she knows where I can start looking for my key... aah!" She pinched her forehead in frustration before walking towards her minion. "Why won't he help? He knows her. He could go to her ... he could talk to her ... he could seduce her and bang the key out of her!"

"He is quite attractive," Jinx agreed.

"Well, of course he's attractive!" Glory cried. "But he drives me insane. Know what I mean?"

"He drives you insane?" Jinx queried.

"Yeah! That's it exactly!" she sighed against his chest. "Oh. Sweet lumpy minion. You're the only one that understands. Probably cause I haven't sucked your brain out yet. He makes me so mad... if I could just ... get my hands on him..." she curved her fingers as though she were about to grab his head.

He cringed in fear before relief swamped him as she dropped her hands. "You know? I'll just find her myself."


At the Mansion on Crawford Street, Giles paced the floor of the double height living room, trying to regroup, while the slayer and her soulmate lounged on the sofas in thought.

"It's a power play, that's what it is," Giles remarked. "It's about who has the power."

"I'm guessing they do?" Buffy remarked. "Big power outage in Buffy county?"

"I should have set you loose on them, that's what I should have done," Giles realised.

"Giles, that Travers guy is like sixty. I can't hit him," Buffy argued. "Can I?" She asked suddenly hopeful.

"I suppose not," Giles uttered. "Well, I could. I think I will."

"Can they really do the stuff they threatened?" Angel asked him. "Kick you out the country?"

"In a heartbeat," Giles sighed as he took off his glasses for a clean. "See, the rough stuff, they're all right out there, a bit ham-handed, but they get it done, but, uh ... this stuff, the, uh, bureaucracy, the pulling of political strings, they're the best in the world. They can kill you with the stroke of a pen. Poncy sods." He put his glasses aside before he broke them from the vigorous cleaning.

"Am I gonna be able to get through this review?" Buffy asked softly.

Giles sat down opposite them. "I suppose they'll make it as difficult as they want to. The physical stuff could be a bit of a challenge."

"That's not what I'm worried about. It's the other stuff," Buffy confessed. "Examining decisions I've made. I mean, twice now I've been within slaying distance of Glory, and twice she's kicked my ass without even tensing a muscle. And I haven't been able to figure out ... what she is, or anything about her except that she wants the key, which I have, and I can't even figure out if it's okay for me to tell anyone that."

"Buffy, no one could have done any better than you," Angel assured her.

"But no one else is gonna be asked the questions that I can't answer," she replied. "They're gonna expect me to be like a Slayer and, and know stuff, but I'm just me and I don't know anything, and they're gonna go away, and they're not gonna tell me how to fight Glory, and I'm not gonna be able to protect Elita."

"Buffy, calm down," Giles replied. "The scandal here is not anything you've done wrong, it's the way they're behaving. Holding what they know hostage with a gun pointed at my bleeding green card, no less. It's humiliating."

"Also smart," Buffy mused. "They picked the perfect thing. I can't lose you."

Giles smiled at that. "Thank you."

"I guess I should be getting ready. What do you think it'll be like, I mean, how do you think they'll start?"


"Agility, clarity, stamina and strength, these are the qualities that the Slayer must possess to do her job," Travers recited as he paced around the training room the next day.

"What came after agility?" Buffy pretended to be confused.

Giles looked at them, puzzled. "If you want her to attack the dummy-"

Travers shook his head. "No, no. Philip will attack the dummy. The Slayer's job is to protect it. Do you understand?"

Buffy nodded. "Protect the dummy."

"As if it were precious," Travers continued. "Now, getting the best of Philip will require agility. Listening to my instructions at the same time, that will demonstrate clarity. And stamina and strength will win the long fight. Good luck."

"Instructions?" Buffy queried.

Travers wrapped a blindfold around her. "Yes, I'll be telling you what to do, how to counter Philip's attack. We assume you're familiar with the Japanese names for aikido and jiu-jitsu moves."

"Japanese?" Buffy questioned, looking at Giles.

"And, go!" A watcher ordered, clicking the stopwatch.

Travers uttered an incomprehensible phrase.

"Huh?" Buffy looked to her watcher.

"He wants you to bow," Giles translated. "Take a bow."

"Oh." Buffy bowed, then watched Philip as he circled around her. He aimed a thrust at the dummy, and she blocked it. Then she kicked at him, but missed. Undeterred, she spun round and blocked his overhead punch.

Travers uttered another phrase as Philip punched her.

"Punch him," Giles translated.

"Thanks, Giles," Buffy replied.

"Sorry," he apologised. Travers uttered more phrases, causing him to add, "Back kick, elbow strike."

Buffy back kicked, then struck her attacker again.

"How have you been training her?" Travers asked him.

"I've trained her to win," Giles replied.

Buffy stopped. "You know what? I'm gonna have to do it my way, guys." She ducked as Philip swung a weapon. She waited for him to lift it, then grabbed the handle, kicked him in the stomach, forcing him back against the vaulting horse, elbowing him in the face. He tumbled backwards over the horse, losing the weapon, the momentum pulling it from the slayer's hands landing in the dummy's chest, knocking it into Nigel.

Buffy took off her blindfold and surveyed the damage. "Uh-oh."

"I think she just broke my rib," Philips muttered as he was helped up.

"Yes, well," Travers muttered.

"He is the attacker," Buffy pointed out. "Usually, I'm meant to kill them."

"Fine," Travers remarked. "We can move on to the real review. Look into your strategies, plans ... figure out what's going on in that head."

Buffy held back a groan. "Good. Head stuff."

"We start at seven tonight," Travers added. Give you time to, uh, well, however you prepare."

Buffy looked to her watcher as the others walked away, matching frown for frown. "I'm going to check on Mom and her guest," she announced, before exiting the room.


For safety's sake, they had concealed Elita at 1630 Revello Drive, reluctant to put her before the watcher interrogation board which had left the slayerettes in quivering knots the day before, convinced they had made out their best friend as an incapable moron. Something which she had more than proved during the physical review this afternoon, Buffy realised inwardly as she entered her former home.

"Mom?" she called out as she entered the living room. Suddenly she froze as she came face to face with Glory.

"Long day, sweetie?" Glory grinned at her. "So this is where the Slayer eats, sleeps, and combs her hair?" she picked up a photo. "Oh, so cute. I can't even stand it. Personally? I need more space, but uh, this is good for you, it's so quaint, and..."

Buffy moved to the fireplace and picked up a poker behind her back. As she straightened up, she found Glory right behind her.

"Buffy," Glory took the weapon, "if I wanted to fight, you could tell by the being dead already. So play nice, little girl."

"What do you want?" Buffy asked.

"The key," Glory replied. "Why else do you think I'd come here? See, I think you knew where it is. And that's a good thing."

"I'm glad you think so," Buffy murmured.

"Well, it's the only thing keeping you alive right now. Because you may be tiny queen in vampire world, but to me, you're a bug. You should get down on your knees and worship me!"

Behind her, Buffy's eyes widened in horror as she caught sight of Elita entering from the kitchen. Frantically, she tried to signal with her gaze for the girl to go away.

Glory continued. "But oh, no, you still think it's neat having Slayer strength. Ooh, big deal! Stronger than humans! Who isn't? I could crush the life from you as easy as you'd break a nail. But I need the key." She turned suddenly. "Kid! Come here a sec."

"Leave her out of this," Buffy ordered.

"Not asking twice," Glory remarked, causing Elita to advance cautiously towards her.

"This is between you and me," Buffy remarked.

"No. This is between me and my key," Glory replied. "You just happen to be the thing in the way." She turned to Elita. "And you are just the darlingest thing I ever did see in my life. What's your name, honey?"

"Elita," the girl replied.

"Elita. Did you know your friend took my key, Elita? And she won't give it back! I bet you know where she put it, don't you?"

"She doesn't know anything," Buffy remarked.

Elita frowned. "I know some stuff."

"Where's my key, Elita?" Glory asked.

"Go upstairs, Elita," Buffy ordered.

Elita scowled at her. "You're always talking about stuff I'm not supposed to hear. I'm gonna figure it out, you know." she added before obeying.

Glory grinned. "Ooh, I like her. She's sassy. And I'll kill her. I'll kill your mom, I'll kill your friends and I'll make you watch when I do. Just give me the key. You either have it or you know where to find it. Obviously, this is a one-time-only deal. Next time we meet, something you love dies bloody. You know you can't take me. You know you can't stop me." she dropped the poker and left.

Buffy watched her go, worried, so concerned in fact, that she jumped when another voice broke the silence.

"Buffy, who was that?" Joyce asked.

Buffy turned to her mother. "That was Glory. Pack a bag, you're staying with me and Angel for a bit," she ordered.

 




At the Magic Box, the slayerettes watched the Council delegation angrily, taking out their frustration at failing the review questions with death glares at them as they inspected the books.

"Look at them," Xander muttered. "Big tough Council members picking on the books."

"Fascists," Willow uttered.

"Why doesn't Mr. Giles put them all out of here?" Tara asked.

"Because if they deport him," Spike remarked, "they're not just destroying his career, they're condemning the man to a lifetime diet of blood sausage, bangers, and mash."

Travers turned to Giles. "Well, your Slayer's twenty minutes late and counting, Rupert."

"Buffy will be here, I assure you," Giles' voice was grim.

Travers chuckled. "Yes, but when?"


In an alley not far from the main street, Buffy checked her wristwatch and swore at the time before picking up her pace.

Abruptly someone grabbed her by the waist, pulling her to the ground.

Buffy rose up as he did, before flying into a pile of garbage as he backhanded her. She rose once more, only to find two more warriors in armour joining the first to circle around her, waving their swords.

"Uh ... guys?" Buffy remarked. "Any way we could ... not do this? Only, I'm late for a very important meeting."

The first knight swung his sword at her, causing her to duck. She executed a spin and punched him, before dodging a staff thrust from the second, then kicking the third, ducked again, and punched the second in his midsection. She ducked another swing, then kicked the third twice, before avoiding another swing from the first. She blocked a punch, then punched him in the face while grabbing hold of his sword arm. She kicked him, then grabbed one of the staffs and used the grip to push him away. She deflected the other, then flipped herself over them before grabbing a staff and jabbing it into the knight's stomach. She dodged another thrust from a staff, kicking the attacker until he spun away. Battling with the one she disarmed, Buffy finally hit him in the face, sending him to the ground. She dropped her staff to block an overhead sword thrust, before punching him and sending him to the floor. Finally she kicked the last away, before facing off the first, knocking the sword out of his hand, pushing him to the ground, holding the weapon to his throat.

"Okay. Let's see what you are," she remarked, removing his chain mail mask to reveal an ordinary human with a symbol on his forehead. "Or who you are," she added.

"One soldier in a vast army," he replied.

"What army?" Buffy asked.

"The Knights of Byzantium, an ancient order," the knight replied. "And now your enemy."

Buffy pushed the sword point harder at his throat. "You work for Glory?"

"You think we align ourselves with the beast?" the knight scorned. "You must be mad."

"You're the ones trying to kill me," Buffy replied. "I think it's a reasonable suspicion."

"No, we were fools, three alone," the knight replied. "But if it takes a hundred men, we send a hundred men, and if it takes a thousand, we send a thousand."

"A thousand?" Buffy echoed.

"So long as you protect the key, the brotherhood will never stop until we destroy it and you," the knight informed her. "You are the Slayer, and we know what we must do. Now, be done with it. Kill us, and let legions follow."

Buffy stepped off him, letting him get up. As he rose to his feet, she put the sword to his throat again. "Go," she uttered. "And think twice before coming after me again."


It was a thoughtful slayer who entered the Magic Box some time later, carrying the sword, her mind still on what she had learned from the fight rather than the Council she was about to face.

"You're late." Travers frowned at her.

"Yeah," Buffy agreed.

Giles eyed the sword. "Was there an attack?" He asked her.

"Yeah," Buffy replied.

"We can begin the review at last," Travers continued pleased. "We'll, skip the more obvious questions..." he trailed off as Buffy put her weapon down on his papers.

"There isn't gonna be a review," she remarked.

"Sorry?" Travers queried.

"No review," Buffy repeated. "No interrogation. No questions you know I can't answer. No hoops, no jumps and no interruptions," she added as Nigel tried to speak, glaring at him until he shut up. She turned to Travers. "See ... I've had a lot of people talking at me the last few days. Everyone just lining up to tell me how unimportant I am. And I've finally figured out why. Power. I have it. They don't. This bothers them." She smiled at him. "Glory came to my home today."

Giles uttered a gasp of shock. "Buffy, are you-"

"Just to talk," Buffy assured him. "She told me I'm a bug, I'm a flea, she could squash me in a second. Only she didn't. She came into my home, and we talked. We had what in her warped brain probably passes for a civilised conversation. Why? Because she needs something from me. Because I have power over her." Her gaze moved over all the watchers. "You guys didn't come all the way from England to determine whether or not I was good enough to be let back in. You came to beg me to let you back in. To give your jobs, your lives some semblance of meaning."

"This is beyond insolence-" Nigel began, before he jumped back as the slayer grabbed the sword from the table and threw it across the room to land point first into the wall directly in front of his nose.

Buffy cleared her throat. "I'm fairly certain I said no interruptions."

"That was excellent!" Xander whispered in awe.

"You're Watchers," Buffy continued. "Without a Slayer, you're pretty much just watching Masterpiece Theatre. You can't stop Glory. You can't do anything with the information you have except maybe publish it in the 'Everyone Thinks We're Insane Home Journal.' So here's how it's gonna work. You're gonna tell me everything you know. Then you're gonna go away. You'll contact me if and when you have any further information about Glory. The magic shop will remain open. Mr. Giles will stay here as my official Watcher, reinstated at full salary..."

Giles coughed. "Retroactive."

Buffy continued without a slip. "To be paid retroactively from the month he was fired. I will continue my work with the help of my friends..."

"I ... don't want a sword thrown at me," a watcher began, "but, civilians, I - we're talking about children."

"We're talking about three very powerful witches, one half Bracken, one half vampire, one chipped vampire, two watchers and a thousand-year-old ex-demon," Buffy replied as the friends sitting on the mezzanine level above beamed with pride.

"The boys?" Philip queried of Xander and Oz. "No power there."

"One is a werewolf three nights of the month, and the other boy has clocked more field time than all of you combined," Buffy replied. "Now. You all may be very good at your jobs. The only way we're gonna find out is if you work with me. You can all take your time thinking about that. But I want an answer right now from Quentin, 'cause I think he's understanding me."

Travers cleared his throat. "Uh, your terms are acceptable." He turned to one of them as the slayerettes broke into applause. "Uh, Spike."

"Quentin," Spike grinned.

"When we inventoried your shop, we found a bottle of single malt scotch behind the, uh, incense holders. I think I could use a glass."

"Just a minute," Buffy held up a hand. "Glory. I wanna know."

"Well, there's a lot to go through," Travers started.

"Just tell me what kind of demon I'm fighting," Buffy added.

"Well, that's the thing, you see," Travers replied. "Glory isn't a demon."

"What is she?" Buffy asked.

"She's a god," Travers replied.

"Oh," Buffy replied.

 

The End
To Be Continued In
Qualms Before The Storm.

Chapter Text

 

Author's Note: Dialogue taken from the original episode; Blood Ties, with changes to fit with my cannon of the series. Enjoy.


Qualms Before The Storm.

The slayer looked at her friends gathered around her in the shop floor of the Magic Box, a few days after the delegation from the Watcher's Council departed. Her expression was one of doubtful, if gratified as she searched for a reply, appreciating their thoughtfulness, but disbelieving if she was really in the mood for such a celebration.

"Look, I know Mom wants to gather and make with the merry tomorrow night," she remarked, "but with everything that's going on..."

Willow clasped her shoulder from behind. "This is exactly what you need. A 20th birthday party with, with, with presents, and funny hats, and, and those candles that don't blow out... Those used to scare me."

Tara nodded. "Me too," she uttered causing her boyfriend to hug her.

"I just don't think this is the best time to break out the party piñata," Buffy continued. "We need to stay focused if we're gonna find a way to stop Glory."

"We're going up against a god," Xander reminded everyone. "An actual mightier-than-thou god."

"Well, you know what they say," Willow pointed out, "the bigger they are-"

"The faster they stomp you into nothing," Anya finished.

"She's right," Buffy agreed, while everyone else glared at the former vengeance demon. "I've thrown everything I've got at her and she just shrugs it off."

"Then we have to find something heavier to throw," Jenny reasoned.

"That might pose some difficulty," Giles remarked. "From what the Council's been able to discover from the book of Tarnis and, and, and other sources, Glory and two of her fellow hell gods ruled over ... one of the more seriously unpleasant demon dimensions."

"There's more than one?" Tara queried.

Anya nodded. "Oh, there are thousands of demon dimensions. All different."

"All pushing on the edges of our reality, trying to find a way in," Wesley added.

"I guess Glory found one," Doyle remarked. "The question is, why?"

Giles studied the findings from the Watcher's Council. "There's nothing to indicate that here. Just ... vague references to ... chaos and destruction."

"Okay, so, we know where Glory's from," Cordelia allowed. "What do we know about her? You know, she's tough, but no bolts of lightning, no blasts of fire, shouldn't a god be able to do that kind of stuff?"

"Uh, usually, yes, but being in human form must be severely limiting her powers," Giles reasoned. "All we have to worry about right now is she's immortal, invulnerable, and insane."

"A crazy hell god?" Xander queried. "And the fun just keeps on leaving."

"From what I've been able to gather," Giles continued, "her living in this world is ... seriously affecting her mental state as well. She's only being able to keep her mind intact by, uh, extracting energy from us. Well, from, from the human brain."

"She, she, she's a brain-sucker?" Tara questioned.

"She, 'absorbs the energies that bind the human mind into a cohesive whole,'" Giles read from the book before him. "Once drained, all that's left behind is, uh-"

"Crazy people," Buffy finished.

"Which is, I'm afraid, why there's been a marked increase in the ranks of the mentally unstable here in Sunnydale," Wesley added.

"At least vampires just kill you," Tara mused.

"We have to find a way to stop her," Buffy uttered.

"Oh, well, Jenny, Tara and I can work on some tactical spells," Willow offered.

"I can do some research," Anya volunteered. "I know way more about demon dimensions than Giles does. Well, I do."

"This is great long-term plan stuff," Xander remarked, "but what about this ... key thingy Glory's looking for?"

Unnoticed, Buffy, Giles, Angel and Spike exchanged a meaningful look.

"Yeah, I mean, shouldn't we be trying to find it before she does?" Cordelia asked.

"I don't think that's what we should be worrying about right now," Angel remarked.

"They've got a point," Willow allowed. "Whatever Glory's planning on opening with the key, I'm guessing it won't be filled with candy and flowers."

"So where should we start looking?" Xander asked. "Do we know where it used to be kept? Who saw it last?"

"We did," Buffy replied slowly. "Giles, Angel, Spike and me. We, know where it is."

"You what?" Xander echoed.

"You know, and you didn't tell us?" Willow added.

"There were reasons," Giles replied.

"Look, if Glory knew that you guys knew where it was," Buffy sighed. "I just didn't wanna put you in that kind of danger."

"As opposed to the other kind we're always in?" Cordelia queried.

Willow nodded. "You should have said something."

Buffy nodded. "You're right," she turned to her watcher. "It's time."

"Are you sure?" Angel asked her.

"If they're gonna be risking their lives, they deserve to know," Buffy decided.

"Know what?" Xander asked.

"There's something that you need to know ... about Elita," Buffy began.

 


"The link must be severed," one of the knights the slayer met on her way to a meeting with the Council of Watcher's delegation declared. "Such is the will of God."

"The key is the link," his comrades in arms uttered in unison. "The link must be severed. Such is the will of God. The key is the link. The link must be severed. Such is the will of God."

"You really think he is going to help you?" A voice asked.

The knights drew their swords in alarm, turning to see three cowled diminutive demons, armed with axes, standing before them.

"I fear your faith is gravely misplaced," the speaker continued, before the three of them attacked.

The fight was brief. Experienced crusading knights on the one hand, three small demons on the other determined it to be so. Jinx, the speaker of the demons, was lucky to survive, or perhaps he intended to do so.

Even so, he ended on the floor, below the point of a knight's sword, awaiting their military judgement and end.

"Shall we test your faith now?" The knight asked him.

A hand clasped the blade, making the warrior look up.

"Never send a minion to do a god's work," Glory remarked. Then she backhanded the knight, sending him flying, depriving him of his weapon.

As he crawled over the ground to retrieve it, the god attacked the other two knights, wrestling a weapon from one with ease, to despatch both.

She dropped the weapon and walked over to the knight still struggling to reach his, calmly picking it up from the ground.

"Hey, nice sword," she complimented, before pointing it at his face. "Bet it hurts." She turned to her surviving minion. "Bring him with us."


In the richness of her apartment, the interrogation of the knight began.

"Okay," Glory remarked as she circled around behind him. "One more time. Just between me and you. Our itsy-bitsy little secret." Suddenly she stood before him and grabbed his face. "Where ... is ... the key?"

"Even if I knew," the knight replied, "I'd die a thousand deaths before I'd tell you."

"Well, you won't need a thousand, sweetie," Glory remarked, patting his cheek, "I'll make the first one last. Long time." She sighed as she walked away. "What is it with you religious types?" She asked aloud, before answering herself. "It's intimacy, isn't it?" She decided, tossing his weapon away, before grabbing his face again, then running her fingers down his chest.

"Oh! You're just scared of letting someone in!" She continued. "Shh, shh, shh. It's okay. I know how difficult the first time can be. You don't have to be afraid. Just relax. You may not have the info I want ... but you still got something I need."

Her fingers pressed themselves either side of his head.

The knight screamed in terror.

 


At the mansion on Crawford Street, someone else uttered a scream, but from different, more joyful origins. "Prezzies!"

"See, just what you needed," Willow declared as she blew more bubbles.

"You are very, very wise," the birthday girl agreed. "Now gimme, gimme, gimme!"

Tara handed her the first gift, smiling.

"This is extremely suspenseful!" Anya cried. "I want the presents."

Buffy revealed a gorgeous dress. "Ohh ... it's beautiful. Thank you, guys."

"Well, we thought you'd get lots of crossbows, other killy stuff," Tara replied.

"Yeah, so we figured, less killy, more frilly," Spike added.

"Gotta look," Anya uttered, grabbing the dress. "Oh, it's just so lovely! Oh, I wish it was mine!"

Everyone looked at her.

"Oh, like you weren't all thinking the same thing," Anya remarked, before putting the dress down.

"I'm fairly certain I wasn't," Giles remarked.

"This is from me," Angel remarked, handing his beloved a large leather box.

Buffy gently popped the clasp in the middle, and opened to reveal a necklace and matching earrings. She gasped at the sight. "Angel, these are exquisite! How on earth did you afford them?"

"I have my ways," he uttered mysteriously. "You like them?"

"Adore," she replied, kissing him.

Everyone else bestowed their gifts, and they moved on to the meal of savoury snacks and slices of birthday cake.

Later, as the party was winding down, the slayer joined her watcher and mother in the kitchen, where the former was pouring a glass of wine.

"It still seems to me like there's a lot you don't know about this," Joyce remarked. "I mean, is she dangerous?"

"No," Buffy replied.

"Well, now, wait just a second," Giles forestalled. "I assume you're talking about her existence rather than her intentions."

Buffy turned, and inwardly froze, seeing Elita on the threshold.

"Exactly," Joyce replied.

"Elita?" Buffy greeted, making them turn to see the girl in question. "What are you doing in there? Party getting slow?"

"Uh," Elita grabbed a stack of plates from the dining room table. "We need plates. Cake time."

She returned to the double height living room, finding everyone for once not falling into silence at her arrival. They had been doing that for most the day, and the day before. Then Anya noticed her entrance and pushed Xander away. Willow and Tara looked up from their cake preparation, Doyle, Oz and Wes from their drinks, and Spike from his conference with his sire.

"Why does everybody start acting all weird when I'm around?" Elita asked.

"Me?" Xander queried. "Me not weird."

"I'm not an idiot," Elita added. "I know you're talking about me."

"No, no, we really weren't," Xander assured her.

"We were talking about sex," Anya lied.

Elita turned as the slayer, watcher and Joyce walked in. "They were talking about me, just like everybody is."

"Again, not so much," Xander replied. "In fact, none."

We were talking about sex," Anya protested. "I mean, you know us, sometimes we like to pretend stuff-"

"Anya!" Her boyfriend cried.

The former vengeance demon carried on regardless. "You know, like, say there's a fireman, or a shepherd-"

"You know what?" Buffy remarked pointedly, "let's not have this exchange of images right now."

"Oh. Right. Of course," Elita uttered. "Can't let Elita hear anything. Fine. I'm just gonna go to bed. That way I won't accidentally get exposed to, like, words."

She stormed upstairs, everyone turning to watch her go.

"Sweetheart," Angel turned to his beloved, "do you think it's wise to keep it from her? After all she knows she was sent to us for your help. Sooner or later she's gonna figure it out, and wouldn't it be easier on her if it came from us?"

"What if Glory catches her?" Buffy replied. "I'd rather have her in ignorance for now. As opposed to scared."

 


Upstairs on the Mansion's third floor, Elita carefully opened the window in her bedroom as far as it would go. Carefully, she tossed her collection of knotted bed sheets over the ledge, watching and waiting for them to reach their end. Satisfied with the finished drop from the makeshift rope to the ground, she checked that the other end was securely tied to the doorknob of her ensuite, then climbed down.

She reached the end and dropped quietly to the ground, grateful that the blinds were covering the living room before her. She turned and walked away, determined to find out what it was they were hiding from her.

Reaching the Magic Box without incident, Elita slotted the key she had lifted from Spike's room into the lock. Mindful of the darkness surrounding her, she switched on the flashlight she had also purloined, and began searching behind the counter for Giles' notes, knowing that he had not had time to move them from here to his apartment.

Just when she was almost ready to admit defeat, she discovered a hidden drawer, which, when opened, contained what she was looking for. She lifted the book out, and setting her flashlight on the floor, she opened placed the book before it, so the pages were readable.

"Tarnis, 12th century," she murmured. "'One of the founders of the monks of the order of Dagon. Their sole purpose appears to have been as protectors of the key. The key is not directly described in any known literature, but all research indicates an energy matrix vibrating at a dimensional frequency beyond normal human perception. Only those outside reality can see the key's true nature. The key is also susceptible to necromanced animal detection, particularly those of canine or serpent construct.'"

She paused, remembering the giant Cobra's reaction to her. "'The monks possessed the ability to transform energy, bend reality. They started work. But the Council ... has suggested ... to us that they were interrupted. Presumably by ... Glory. They obviously did manage to accomplish the task. They had to be certain the Slayer would protect it with her life. So they sent the key to her ... in human form.'"

Elita froze. She was the key. That was the secret everyone had been keeping from her. She was nothing. She had never existed. Never was born, never conceived, never raised, never lived. Only as a ball of energy, without form, thought or emotion. That's what everyone had been so scared to tell her.
Or were they scared of her? Of what might happen if Glory got her hands on her? Elita frowned. She had no choice, no free will. She was only an object to be used, a means to an end. A thing to be sacrificed for the will of a god.

She rose from the floor and returned the book to it's hiding place. Silently she left the shop and returned to the Mansion.

Gathering the blanket rope up from outside, she wondered what would happen if she ended her mortal existence. Presumably, Glory would not be able to use her body, as it only contained her energy.

Perhaps it was the best for everyone concerned.

 


They were laughing about something Doyle had said, when Tara broke off at the horrifying sight which arrived from the kitchen. "Oh-oh my god."

"Is this blood?" Elita queried, her tone full of grief, as she displayed her arms, let open and wounded from the large bloodstained knife which she held in her hands.

"Elita!" Buffy cried, rushing over to her. "What did you do?!"

"This is blood, isn't it?" Elita asked her in despair. "It can't be me. I'm not a key. I'm not a thing. What am I? Am I real? Am I anything?"

"Yes you are," Buffy replied. "Your someone who needs my help and protection. And you have it," she added, hugging her. She turned to find Angel standing behind them, and motioned him to see to everyone else.

"Guys," Angel remarked, walking over to them, "could you give us the night, please? We need to sort this out."

"Sure," Wesley remarked.

The others nodded and gathered their things before heading to door.

"If you need anything," Willow offered as she paused before leaving.

Angel shook his head. "Thanks, though," he added.

Willow hugged him then let herself be ushered away by Oz.

"Perhaps I should stay, you know, just in case," Giles offered.

"You and Jenny need to get Ellis back home," Angel replied. "Don't worry, we can deal with this."

Giles nodded, and left, leaving Angel to close the door behind him.

"I hope we can," he murmured before walking to stairs.

The slayer had moved to Elita's bedroom, where she and Joyce cleaned her up while Spike stood by, Tara with him. They moved aside from the door to let Angel through.

Elita looked to the slayer. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"We were going to," Buffy replied. "When Glory was dealt with."

"The monks," Elita murmured. "When did ... when did they ..."

"Six months ago," Buffy informed her.

Elita swallowed back tears. "I've only been alive for six months, huh?"

"You're still alive," Angel remarked softly. "You have lived, and are living. And you were sent to us for protection. Which means we will find away to keep you so."

"How do you know?" Elita cried. "Maybe I'm not supposed to!" She raised her voice, pushing the slayer away. "Get out."

"Elita.." Buffy began.

"Get out, get out, get out!" Elita continued, her voice rising to a shriek.

Buffy rose from the bed, and quietly followed Angel out of the room.

Alone Elita let loose her grief until exhaustion claimed her.

 


"We need answers, Giles," Buffy remarked the next day at the Magic Box. "We need to find out everything we can about the key. What's it for, who created it."

"And why Glory has a big girl-god jones for it," Cordelia added.

"This isn't about her. It's about Elita," Buffy corrected. "She deserves to know where she came from. She needs to know. Or it's just gonna eat away at her."

"How did she find the notes?" Giles wondered. "How did she get in here?"

"I think she stole the key from my room," Spike revealed. "I found it tossed on the bed when I went to sleep. And there's no sign of forced entry."

"She tied the bed sheets together to get out of the mansion," Angel added. "She knew what she was doing."

"We should have told her," Tara remarked. "I know how hurtful it can be to find out something about yourself everyone else has already known."

"I know," Buffy replied. "I just hoped that we'd be able to kill Glory before we had to tell her. She's so terrified now, because the god's after her."

"Well, we'll do what we can," Giles replied, gesturing to him and Wesley. "There are a few avenues we've yet to explore. But I can't promise anything, Buffy."

"I know," the slayer said, "but I need us to try, Giles. For Elita."


At Sunnydale General, Ben affected a bright smile as he prepared to serve the patients of the mental ward their jello.

"All right, fellas, today we've got blues, greens, and oh, hey, chartreuse. It's a party."

"It won't stick," one of them cried. "The birds have been pecking too hard." He laughed, causing Ben to catch sight of him, and be amazed.

"Byzantium," he observed.

"Yes, they've arrived," a voice agreed, emerging from the shadows to reveal it's owner as Jinx. "Unfortunate, but not completely unexpected."

"How many?" Ben asked.

"Their numbers are few for the moment, but they will grow," Jinx replied. "The Knights of Byzantium are like ants. First you see one, then two, then the picnic's ruined. No matter how many we kill, they'll keep coming ... wave after wave." He looked at Ben. "It's time to set old animosities aside. Your fate is directly linked to her magnificently-scented Glorificus. She's been extremely forgiving of your considerable foibles up until now, but if you persist in your defiance, she'll be forced to-"

"To what?" Ben scoffed. "What is she going to do? Send a six-pack of minions to bore me to death? Glory can't lay a finger on me. You know it, I know it, she knows it. So save the threats, or I'll finish the job I started on your head."

He put the tray down and walked out of the room, leaving Jinx staring thoughtfully after him.


As night fell upon the hellmouth, the form Glory was searching for, entered the mental ward of the hospital, looking for answers.

"It's here," a patient cried. "It's here. It's here."

"Can't stop," another uttered.

"It's here. It's here," the first continued.

"Make it stop," the second added. "The skin's too tight."

"Can't hear it," the first murmured. "What's the frequency? Empty. All spilled out."

Elita walked over to his bed. "Please. You see me, right? Look at me."

"Can't stop it!" the second cried.

"You know what I am, don't you?" Elita persisted. "You all know!"

"Can't hear it," the patient muttered. "Can't hear it, can't hear it."

"Tell me!" Elita cried.

"Can't hear it, can't hear it ..." the patient continued.

"What am I?" Elita asked.

"The key," another cried, causing Elita to turn, and see the insane knight of Byzantium. "I found it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."

She rushed over to him. "You know what the key is? Where did I come from? Who made me, what am I?"

"Thank you, thank you." the knight repeated.

"Please!" Elita begged.

"Destroyer!" the Knight suddenly cried. "Cracked ... bones ... the sun bleeding into the sky! The key is the link."

Elita backed away in fear. "No, no."

"The link must be severed," the knight replied. "Such is the will of God. Such is the will of God. Such is the will of God."

She backed away until she reached the doors. She pushed them open, only to find an intern on the other side.

"Who are you?" He asked. "You shouldn't be back here."

"I'm sorry," Elita replied tearfully, "I just," she hiccuped.

"Come on," the intern wrapped an arm around her. "Let's get out of this ward. I'll rustle up a drink in the locker room."

Elita let him lead her away to the locker room, sitting down before a table, recovering herself while the intern made two steaming cups of chocolate.

"Here," he said as he deposited them before her, "two steaming cups of chocolate goodness courtesy of ... whoever I swiped it from out of the cupboard. Couldn't find any marshmallows. I'll try to steal some for next time."

"Don't like them anyway," Elita replied.

"What? Is that even possible?" He asked her.

"Too squishy," Elita replied.

"So what's wrong?" He inquired. "Was one of those patient's a relative? Did they upset you? You know they don't mean whatever they say."

"You don't understand," Elita replied. "I'm not real. None of this. They made it. I'm nothing! I'm just a thing the monks made so Glory couldn't find me. I'm not real."

Ben rose from his seat in horror. "You're the key?"

Elita looked up. "How do you know about the key?"

"Go!" Ben cried. "Before she finds you. Don't ask me how she knows, 'cause she always knows. Just go."

"Wait!" Elita commanded. "Calm down, just tell me-"

"You don't understand, you're a kid," Ben continued. "You stay, she'll find you. She finds you, she'll hurt you."

Elita looked at him, puzzled. "What's wrong with you?"

"You're what she's been searching for," Ben remarked. "I am telling you, run. You don't know, you -" he broke off, glancing around the room. "Oh god. Oh god no, she's coming. I can feel it, you've gotta get out. No ... oh no, she's here!" He grabbed her by the arms, shaking her until she screamed.

"She's here!" he cried as he morphed into Glory.

The god halted, staring at her. "Hey, don't I know you?" She asked. She caught sight of the scrubs she was clothed in and released her. "Ugh, cotton!"
She turned crossed the room to the lockers. "Could a fabric be more annoyingly pedestrian?" She retrieved a red silk blouse from the locker. "Now this is what I'm talking about. Makes your skin sing."

Elita stared at her, transfixed. "You're-you're Ben..."

"Uh, it's an eensy more complicated than that," Glory replied. "Family always is, isn't it?"

Elita looked to the door, measuring the distance, wondering if she could reach it before the god snatched her up.

"You'd never make it," Glory replied. "I'd rip out your spine before you got half a step. And those little legs? They wouldn't be much good without one of those." She suddenly pounced next to her form. "Would they, Elita?" She grinned. "Now. What I'm trying to noodle, is what in the world was the Slayer's little friend doing here with gentle Ben?"

"Y-you don't remember?" Elita asked her.

"Remember what?" Glory asked as she brushed Elita's hair back. "You were talking to him, not me. Oh, he wasn't being naughty, was he?"

The door opened, and a hospital guard entered. "Excuse me, ma'am. This area's for hospital personnel-"

It was as far as he got. Glory grabbed his head, and twisted, breaking his neck. "Rude! I was talking!" She sighed and pulled Elita out of the chair. "What do you say ... we find a nice place off the beaten track where you and I can have a long uninterrupted chat."


The god soon found an deserted chemistry lab and pushed Elita inside, shoving her against a counter.

"Okay. Small talk over. I'm in a bit of a crunch here, so let's cut right to the ooey gooey centre. The Slayer, has my key. It's mine, I want it. Do you know where she squirreled it away? There's ice cream and puppy dogs in it for you if you start singing."

"I'm not sure," Elita murmured. "What does it look like?"

"Well..." Glory sighed wistfully as she walked away. "The last time I caught a peep ... it was a bright green swirly shimmer. Really brought out the blue in my eyes. But then those sneaky little monks pulled an abracadabra, so now it could look like anything. You see the predicament I'm in."

"Maybe..." Elita began.

"Yes?" Glory asked.

"Well, maybe if you ... told me more about it, I'd know if I've seen it," Elita finished.

Glory placed her hands either side of her, staring at her long and hard. "Okay."

"So this ... key thing ... it's been around for a long time?" Elita asked.

"Well, not as long as me, but ... yeah," Glory replied. "Just this side of forever."

"Is it evil?" Elita asked fearfully.

"Totally!" Glory replied, laughing. "Well, no, not really. I guess it depends on your point of view."

"What's it for?" Elita asked. "I mean ... if it's a key, there's gotta be a lock, right?"

Glory nodded. "Yes. We have a winner."

"S-so what does it open?" Elita asked.

The god sighed. "I smell a fox in my hen house. Is that why you've been playing sugar and spice with old Uncle Ben? Trying to get a peek at Glory's unmentionables?"

"No, I-" Elita began.

"Shh! I kinda wanna hear me talking right now. Me talking. You know what I'm starting to think? I'm thinking ... that maybe you ... don't have any idea where my key is." She turned away. "Very irritating. Irrational. Know what I mean, tiny snapdragon? Like..." she paused to rub her head. "Bugs under my skin. And say, I'm feeling a little..."

"What's wrong with you?" Elita asked her.

"Hey. Hey!" Glory suddenly brightened. "This doesn't have to be a complete waste of my precious time. I've been meaning to send the Slayer a message. And I could use a little pick-me-up. Two birds, one stone, and Boom. You have yummy dead birds."

The door burst open, revealing the slayer, and a few friends.

"Get away from her," Buffy commanded.

"Hey, we were just talking about you," Glory remarked, while Elita ran over to the slayer, hiding behind her.

"Conversation's over, hell-bitch," Buffy replied. She punched her again and again, kicking her away, before grabbing her, spinning her around, slamming her into a display case.

Glory kicked her away.

Spike came up behind her and grabbed her by her arms, restraining her for Buffy to punch the god.

"I thought you said this skank was tough," Spike remarked.

Suddenly Glory broke free, grabbed the chipped vampire, and flipped him over, throwing him against a wall. She picked him up, head-butted him, then threw him across the room the exam table.

"He wakes up, tell your boyfriend to watch his mouth," Glory remarked.

Buffy grabbed her. "He is not my boyfriend." Abruptly she released her, and Glory was sent reeling from a punch from behind. "He is," Buffy added, as Angel punched the god once more.

On the threshold of the room, Willow and Tara began chanting.

Glory grabbed her foot as she tried to kick her. "Hey, those are really nice shoes." She pushed her foot away. Buffy allowed her, using the move to fly into a back flip, kicking Glory in the face.

"Giles, now!" She cried.

The watcher fired the crossbow. The arrow ricochet off the god's stomach.

"Oh, please. Like that's," Glory scoffed, just before Xander hit her over the head with a tire iron. "Hey!" she grabbed her. "Watch the hair," she warned, flinging him away into Giles, where they hit the x ray screens, breaking the glass, showering electrical sparks all over them.

"Time to start the dying," Glory announced, tossing the tire iron at Elita. "Start with the whelp!"

"Elita!" Angel cried, throwing himself into the trajectory path of the object. It took him in the side.

"Angel!" Buffy cried.

"Nice catch," Glory remarked. "Is that the best you little crap-gnats can muster? 'Cause, I gotta tell ya, so not impressed."

She walked to Willow and Tara, who threw a handful of magical powder over her, covering the god from hair to toe.

Glory was outraged. "Look what you did to my dress, you little-"

Willow clapped her hands. "Discede!"

Two things happened at once. Glory suddenly disappeared into thin air, and Willow collapsed to the floor.

Buffy looked up from Angel's side. "What did you do to her?" She asked.

"Teleportation spell," Willow gasped out, her energy severely depleted. "Still working out the kinks."

"Where'd you send her?" Angel asked as he struggled up.

"Don't know," Willow replied. "That's one of the kinks."


High above the hellmouth, a magical dust materialised in the night sky, coalescing into the form of a blond woman.

Glory opened her eyes and looked about her. "Oh, sh-" She started to swear, before gravity caught up with her, sending her to the ground.


"Careful," Buffy instructed her boyfriend, as he rose to feet after she removed the tire iron from his chest. "You're half human now, remember? We haven't tested that against impaling tire irons."

"I'm alright," Angel assured her. "I just need to rest. And eat, probably."

"Spike," Buffy turned to him. "Are you all right to drive?"

"Yeah, luv," Spike replied. "I'll get us home."

Giles struggled to his feet. "That was an incredibly ... dangerous spell for an adept at your level," he said to Willow.

The redhead nodded. "Yep. Won't be trying that one again soon."

"Are you okay?" Buffy asked Elita. "Did she hurt you?"

Elita shook her head as she stood up. "Wait," she said, remembering suddenly. "Ben. He was here, he was trying to help me. He... I ... I think he might have left before Glory came. I can't, I can't remember."

Buffy took her hand. "It's okay. Don't worry about it. Next time we see him, we'll thank him."

The End.
To Be Continued In.

Beasts of Hell.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Some dialogue has been taken from The Prom, the main plot of this replaces the original episode Crush. Because I don't have Spike falling in love with Buffy, that episode is rendered redundant, so I had to come up with an alternative. Enjoy.

Beasts of Hell.


"I'm afraid we can no longer prevaricate; the situation is much too dire," Wesley Wyndam-Pryce remarked before calmly lifting the china cup from its saucer and taking a sip of his recently brewed tea.

His colleague at Wyndam-Pryce Investigations was rather more stressed about the circumstances; a complete contrast. "Come on, mate, I thought we had loads of cases last month," Spike cried as he paced the office floor.

"Minor incidents and false alarms," Wesley reminded him. "Plus since your ownership of the Magic Box, I'm left to deal with everyone." He took another sip of his tea. "I've been considering firing you, but I must have at least one employee."

"Believe me, mate, I'd resign in a second if it would help you out," the chipped vampire replied, "but I still don't see why we have to have this party."

"A fund-raiser," Wesley corrected as his colleague noisily took a seat in the chair across from him. "And we have no choice. The rent's coming at the end of the month, plus the usual other bills have decided to charge us simultaneously, so we have to raise enough funds to pay off everything, plus earn a little profit, before the week is out."

"But where will we hold it?" Spike asked.

"The Bronze." Wesley replied. "I've discussed it with Xander, and he's already agreed to waive both the fee for the place, and the band, which will be Oz's anyway."

"So, now we just have to con rsvps out of Sunnyhell's big bucks set," Spike remarked, to which Wesley nodded, causing the vampire to groan. "Bloody exciting event this is gonna turn out to be," he muttered.

"The Slayerettes will be coming," Wesley pointed out, "it won't just be the two of us looking like idiots in black tie."

"That's a comfort, I suppose," Spike allowed before rising from his chair. "I better get back to the shop before Anya decides to release another troll from a crystal," he remarked by way of farewell before exiting the firm.

When the door closed behind his colleague, Wesley allowed himself to sigh, and add a drop of liquor to his tea. He leaned back in his office chair, trying to avoid catching sight of the large pile of red notices residing within his IN tray, all demanding payment on pain of financial death. This fund raiser had to succeed, otherwise he would be forced to close the firm, ending the only possible future for the slayerettes to earn some money out of saving the world from vampires, demons and hell gods. He smiled wryly at the last one, recalling what Willow had managed to do to Glory. At least that was one evil which would be out of action and unavailable to wreck this affair. With her out of the picture, the event might go very smoothly indeed.


Across town upon a largely neglected neighbourhood, the light from the Californian sunshine began to reach one of the many dingy suburban houses. Silently it drifted through the cracks in the door to the inside, almost skittish about giving light to the darkness which previously held reign therein. Nervously it shied away from the various piles of rubbish littered about the hall and front room, conveying the impression of a dump site rather than a typical American house, choosing to avoid surrendering to the natural curiosity which would warrant investigation into each pile of degradation.

Oblivious to the effect they were causing to the weather of the day, the owner of the house inserted a video tape into the VCR system of the front room. The screen flickered then turned into noiseless dots of blank space before the recording, causing the roaring to gather more power over the room.

The roaring originated from a large wire cage, which contained an ugly creature, who snarled at the owner of the house, his host, and the television screen, as it's picture transformed into the behavioural lesson for the day. His large claws wrestled with the corners, attempting to warp the wire restraining him.

His struggles became only more frantic as the sound from the recording kicked in.


On the campus of Sunnydale University, Oz opened his sleep laden eyes to locate the alarm and reached out a hand to de-arm the device before fully rousing himself. Quietly he rolled over to survey the condition of his companion, his solemn face becoming even more serious as he took in the conflict upon his girlfriend's face. Despite a week passing since the spell which sent Glory almost into space, Willow had yet to gain relief from the effects such powerful spell casting laid upon her. Every waking moment she suffered painful headaches, making her miss classes, whilst the night caused fractious suffering on her sleep deprived body. Together her and Oz had tried to keep this distress from the rest of the gang, but it was impossible to conceal it from the slayer, Angel, Xander or Tara, causing even the rest, including Elita to know.

As for the latter, she had become increasingly withdrawn since learning the true nature of her existence and arrival in Sunnydale under the protection of the slayer. Her arms bore faint yet very real scars of the self-inflicted wounds she caused upon discovery, while her mind remained traumatised by the knowledge and the battle with Glory at the hospital. Despite being the key, she was still a fifteen year old girl, confronted with a sudden need for a maturity she was not prepared for. The stoic calm of the terminally ill descended upon her, casting a dark shadow over life at the Mansion on Crawford Street, and the slayerettes in general. No one knew or could even imagine what thoughts were in her mind concerning her life, or what Glory wanted from her, or the feelings she felt every time the slayerettes risked their lives for her, and few dared to ask, fearing to cause a repeat of the wounds inflicted the first time. Buffy and Angel kept a deeper watch over her than before, ensuring that Jenny and Tara enchanted a force field over the house while they were unable to be present, and a alarm system when they were.

Willow murmured in her sleep, causing Oz to come out of his reflections. Gently he reached out and touched her cheek, inwardly frowning when she immediately opened her eyes.

"Hey," he remarked. "You feeling up for classes today?"

"I think so," she replied, as usual, belying the stress of headaches conveyed within her eyes.

Oz stroked her slightly fevered brow, noting minor improvement from the day before. "Take it easy," he pleaded.

Willow took the hand to her lips, kissing his palm. "I will," she promised, before cautiously rising from the pillows. Her hand went to her forehead as her head let a brief torment on her mind for allowing the body to make such an ambitious move, whilst her other reached for the pain killers on the beside table, swallowing the sugar-coated tables down with water before she attempted to leave the bed.

Oz watched her get up and slowly get dress, silently praying that she would be well enough for the fund raising party at the Bronze in a few days, so Elita would be comforted that none of them were feeling the effects of the latest battle with Glory any longer.


In the Mansion on Crawford Street, Buffy performed the same movements as Oz had, at roughly the same time; before rolling over to survey her sleeping boyfriend. Unlike Willow, Angel had recovered quickly from his injuries sustained in the battle with Glory, thanks to his still present vampire healing. Privately the slayer hoped that was a quality he would not lose when he eventually achieved his full Shanshu, along with the demonic strength which kept him fighting by her side almost every day. These, aside from her hope they would eventually defeat Glory, were her daily prayers before she assumed the responsibilities of normal life; college and slaying. She was actually enjoying the former, having proved better able to handle her grade average now than she did in high school. There were fewer classes, causing her the opportunity to attend rather than skip, and nearly all of her teachers respected her intellect, minus the professor of history, that is. She had Angel to help and advise her, as well as his presence on campus, along with that of her friends.

As for the latter, slaying was something of a major concern lately, due to Glory. In all her years as the slayer, Buffy had not met with a deadlier opponent. Instead of a rapid healing from her battles and the usual vampire dusting, she was now receiving very real, and very serious bruises, ones which required more healing than she thought her body capable of. It was a miracle her mother's boyfriend had not noticed when they came to dinner twenty-four hours after the last battle with Glory. Ordinarily Buffy would have called to cancel and explained to her mother why, but she did not want to further the concern her mother already felt over her daughter's wellbeing. The strength of Glory had caused everyone in the slayerettes to become concerned over her ability to defeat the god, to an extent that their own safety was almost immaterial. For herself, aside from worrying about them, Buffy was equally concerned with her own powers to defeat Glory. She was not sure how she could slay the god and protect Elita at the same time. The Watcher's test concerning that element was not the only thing which influenced her thoughts on this matter; for Glory's strength was enough to cause doubts within itself.

Buffy sighed and rolled over in order to rise from the bed and prepare for college. As she manoeuvred her legs down to the floor, two arms wrapped themselves around her waist, causing her to gasp as their owner added a kiss to the scar on her neck.

"Why didn't you wake me?" Angel asked her softly, the air created by his words blowing on to her skin, creating pleasurable sensations deep within her.

"I didn't want to disturb you," Buffy replied as he kissed neck again, before embarking on a long campaign of kisses to her shoulder blades. She groaned and tilted her head back in ecstasy. "I know you don't have classes till eleven."

"Still, I wanted to drive you to the campus," Angel replied, before using his hold on her waist to pull her on top of him. The fall into his arms made her laugh, along with his impromptu tickling session, before they caught sight of each other's eyes and fell into a deep embrace. Passionately Angel kissed the despondency of her dismal thoughts about Glory and Elita away, making Buffy forget everything but the love she found in his arms.

Then the snooze button switched itself off causing the alarm to ring again, forcing the couple apart.

Buffy groaned before reluctantly pulling herself out of bed. "As much as I want to quote Spike and say sod it to first class; it's history and you know what my professor is like."

"Only too well," Angel agreed, rising from the bed too.

"I'll see you at lunch," Buffy promised as she dressed. "Before the girls and I go shopping for our dresses to Wesley's fund raiser."

"I forgot that was so soon," Angel remarked as he pulled on his shirt and trousers. "I hope it drums up enough funds for him and raises the profile of the firm."

"He has been relying on us for demons to fight as of late," Buffy agreed, opening the door of their master bedroom to head into the hall and go downstairs. "You think though what with the hellmouth, that he'd be inundated with cases."

"Trouble is," Angel continued as he followed her into the living room, "the demons are more likely to be slayed by us before they become a problem for any clients to go to Wesley with."

"True," Buffy admitted as she walked into the kitchen, where their lodgers were already present, eating breakfast. She took in the bowl before Spike and then looked at the chipped vampire warily. "Please tell me that's not what I think it is."

"Alright," Spike replied in between mouthfuls, "it's not."

Buffy groaned as she retrieved her bagel from the cupboard to toast. "If you're going to vary your diet," she remarked, "could you at least do so when the rest of us aren't here?"

"You weren't," Spike pointed out.

"Elita is," Buffy retorted. "You're grossing her out."

"No he's not," Elita objected. "I'm a key, remember? Key's aren't affected by the strange eating habits of vampires."

"You might not be," Buffy remarked as she continued to make her breakfast, "but I am. He's put me off Wheetabix for life. What are you gonna do when Tara stays over?"

"Tara's a lot tougher than she looks," Spike defended, "and you seem fine with Angel's mixed diet."

"Angel's discreet," Buffy returned.

"I'll have you know I bloody am too," Spike added as he rose up to tidy his breakfast bowl away. "Now, are you lot ready for Wes' fund raiser?"

"Me and the girls are shopping for our dresses this afternoon," Buffy informed him, before taking a bite out of her bagel. "What about you boys?"

Unlike you lot, luv, we only need tuxes," Spike pointed out as he washed his bowl, a rule the slayer insisted on when he moved in.

"Can I come?" Elita asked.

"As Jenny and Giles are bringing Ellis with them, yes," Buffy replied. "We'll all be at the Bronze, so we can better protect you there."

"I think Glory will be out of action for a while yet," Angel remarked. "If the effect that teleporting spell had on Willow is anything to go by."

"I hope so," Buffy mused. "But Glory more powerful than any other evil I've defeated before. We still need to be on our guard."


Back inside the house where the light from the sun was afraid to investigate the piles of unknown origins scattered across the floor, the animal inside the cage continued to rebel against his confinement. Growling, its claws gripped the steel bars, trying to cause the cage to shake and move. His primitive Pavlovian brain registered the fact that his master- for lack of a better word, as few mortals possessed the strength to own these beasts -was absent from the house, whereabouts unknown. The caged creature did not care where the human was; he was gone, so he could escape. He repeated his attempts to shake the cage, rocking his prison against the floor continuously while his claws wrestled with the metal bars until he tore them apart by demonic strength alone.

Victory achieved the beast jumped free from the cage to growl at the room he was now in, casting his black pupils around the walls until he caught sight of the door, whereupon he leapt at the wooden barrier, raking his claws at the veneer. Shards flew about him as he tore at the wood in his frantic, desperate desire for freedom. Under this crazed frenzy, the door did not remain in tact for long. A hole appeared before him and the beast leapt through it. However, now he was outside his controlled environment, in unfamiliar surroundings, the beast was at a loss as to what to do next. He jumped on the spot, looking first one way, the other.

Suddenly, another beast drove past, making the animal stop and stare. He growled as recognised the species and set off to follow it. Sheer luck and a natural instinct for self-preservation on the part of the humans within the hellmouth's road systems above ground, saved the creature from meeting with an accident as it followed the metal animal into town.

The vehicle slowed as it encountered close quartered traffic, causing the beast to attempt to bite into its rear end, until the pain he encountered rendered his natural retreat. Yelping, he glanced around for fresh meat, until his eyes fixed on something else which his master had conditioned him to recognise and revolt at the sight. Summoning his demonic strength, he leapt at the large shop window before him, smashing the glass in one jump to land upon the sales floor. Ignoring the screams of paying customers, he went for the formal wear, his mouth salivating at the meal which awaited him.


"Right there," Xander remarked as he paused the footage from the surveillance tape which Wesley managed to secure from the shop. "See, it's like he just realised he forgot to put money in the meter or something."

"You know the part that totally weirded me out?" Cordelia remarked. "That thing had good taste. I mean, he ignores the casual clothes and went right for the formal wear."

"That's right," Xander retorted. "He left behind his copy of Monsters Wear Daily."

Cordelia frowned at him. "I'm serious. Look at the kid that the monster went after. Very smooth lines, 'til he was shredded."

"As much as I hate to agree, she's right," Anya remarked. "Let's play it again."

"I don't want to see it again," the slayer sighed.

"Buffy, I know it's horrible," Giles offered gently, "but if you're going to hunt this creature, you should study it."

"Think I got it," Buffy replied.

"She's right," Willow added. "I mean, you've seen one big hairy bringer of death, you've seen them all."

"If I'm not mistaken, this is a hellhound," Wesley declared.

Giles nodded. "Yes. It's particularly vicious. It's sort of a demon foot soldier bred during the Machash Wars. Trained solely to kill. They feed off the brains of their foes."

"Look!" Cordelia called out. "Right there, zoom in on that."

"It's a videotape." Xander pointed out.

"So?" The former cheerleader returned. "They do it on television all the time."

"Not with a regular VCR they don't, darlin'," Doyle replied.

"Perhaps we could stay on the topic for once," Wesley decided. "What were you doing this afternoon?"

"Shopping for dresses for your fund raiser," Cordelia replied. "For which now some of the funds raised will go to pay for my therapist," she added mockingly.

"What's that?" Oz asked. "Pause it."

"Guys! It's just a normal VCR." Xander reminded them. "It doesn't... Oh wait, uh, it can do pause."

"Hello, hellhound raiser," Angel remarked as the screen froze on a man outside the shop, monitoring the beast creating chaos inside.

"I think that's Tucker Wells," Oz replied. "He used to be in my chem lab."

"Let me guess," Wesley murmured. "He was quiet, kept to himself, but always seemed like a nice young man."

"He didn't seem the murderous type anyway," Oz replied. "Something must have happened to him."

"Ooooh!" Willow cried as she clicked her mouse. "I got into Tucker's e-mail account. Listen to this message Tucker sent to this guy David Metz last week. 'The Wyndam-Pryce Investigative lemmings have no idea what awaits them. Their big night will be their last night.'"

"David Metz," Oz mused, "another fellow lab colleague."

"So, Tucker is planning on attacking my fund raiser!" Wesley cried, outraged.

"Once again, the Hellmouth puts the special in special occasion," Oz murmured.

"Why do I bother to hold these things, I ask you," Xander remarked with a groan.

"I Wonder if I can take my dress back?" Anya asked.

"Don't you dare," Buffy replied.

"But Tucker is going to..." Tara began before she was cut off.

"No!" Buffy cried. "You guys are going to have a good fund raiser The kind of event that everyone should have. I'm going to give you all a nice, fun, normal evening if I have to kill every single person on the face of the earth to do it. Besides, these are hellhounds. We've had a god up until now, I think we can handle a few dogs in need of a good behavioural school." She paused to make sure she had everyone's attention. "Okay, Wes, why don't you and Spike go to Tucker's house. He's probably not there, but it's worth a shot."

"Alright. What about the others?" Wes asked.

"Oz you said you know this David kid that Tucker e-mailed? Why don't you and Will track him down? See what he knows, if he's involved?"

Willow nodded. "We're on it."

"And Xander and Anya, could you two check the magic shop records before Spike purchased the place?" Buffy continued. "See if anyone's been buying supplies to raise a hellhound."

"Gotcha," Xander replied. "Or check and see who's been stocking up on hellhound sausages. I hear those pups will do anything for a tasty treat."

"What about me?" Elita asked.

"You will be staying here," Buffy replied. "Where you are safe." She turned to her watcher. "Giles, you said this thing eats brains. Any brains?"

"Um, I suppose," Giles allowed.

"Then Tucker must be feeding it, right?" Buffy persisted.

Giles nodded. "He must be. Why, what did you have in mind?"


"You know," Buffy remarked to her boyfriend as they entered the meat packing plant, "six years ago, this place would have grossed me out. Now, I don't even flinch. What does that say about me?"

"That you're not afraid of anything the world or the hellmouth throws at you?" Angel suggested, causing her to laugh.

"No, there are still some fears which the slayer can never conquer," she replied, "lesson tests being one which comes to mind."

"Can I help you?" The supervisor asked them.

"We're from Wyndam-Pryce Investigations," Buffy replied, flashing the business card. "We're investigating the guy behind the wild dog attacking April Fool's store."

"Oh, yeah, that sounded awful," the supervisor remarked feelingly. "What can I do to help you both?"

"Do you know this guy?" Angel asked, handing him the yearbook photo of Tucker Wells.

"Yeah, yeah," the supervisor added after a moment of thoughtful staring. "This kid orders cow brains a couple of times a week. Goes to this address," he took a note from the clipboard in his hand and gave it to Buffy. "Good luck. He's a weird kid."

"Thanks," Buffy replied, "thanks a lot." She waited for Angel to retrieve the photo, then they shook hands with the guy before exiting the plant.


"Zeroes all around, luv," Spike remarked as the slayer returned to the Mansion.

"Sorry," Willow added for the whole of the team.

"Make not with the long faces," Buffy replied, brandishing a piece of paper. "I got the address. Now the party starts in a little while. I want you guys to go on and Angel and I will catch up with you as soon as we put a lid on this jerk."

"What?" Xander shook his head. "No way."

"We can't just leave you, luv," Spike agreed.

"Buffy, they're right," her watcher weighed in. "You need..."

"To see taillights," Buffy interrupted. "Hit the door. I have everything under control."

"Buffy," Oz tried, "it makes sense to ..."

The slayer glared at them. "Have. A. Nice. Time."

"Okay then," Willow conceded.

"See ya," Cordelia added as the slayerettes rose up to depart en masse.

Buffy caught Giles and Spike's arms on their way out. "Keep an eye on them until we get there."

"We will," Giles promised before leaving.


At the house where even the light was afraid, the owner stood before a cage holding his other beast, ready to release him for the night's festivities.

"You're ready to go," Tucker declared.

"Sorry, new plan," Buffy announced as she came upon him from behind. Using her slayer strength she tossed him aside from the cage. "The fund raiser's a go and you're pathetic."

"Maybe," Tucker shrugged. "Maybe not." He brandished a vase and broke it over the slayer's head.

Buffy merely brushed the shards off her jacket. She glanced at the piles of video tapes sitting on top of the television whilst he chose to wave a screwdriver at her.

"So that's how you did it?" She remarked. "That's how you brainwashed the hounds to go psycho tonight?"

Tucker grinned. "Neat, huh?"

"I don't get it." Buffy replied. "What kind of sicko wants to destroy a fund raiser?"

The boy flinched inwardly as he remembered being refused for a date to attend. "I have my reasons."

Now it was the slayer's turn to shrug. "Whatever. Every maladjusted has his reasons. Luckily for me, you're an incompetent maladjusted."

Calmly, she wrenched the screwdriver from his hand and tied it to his other with the help of an electrical cord. Opening a nearby door, she shoved him infront of her. "Now I'm gonna lock you in here and then I'm gonna party like it's..." she trailed off as her eyes adjusted to the relative darkness of the room, catching sight of the three empty cages before three blank television sets.

Tucker was smug. "Gotta have a redundancy system. Any incompetent knows that. My three fiercest babies are on their way to the dance right now. You think formal wear makes them crazy, wait 'til they see the mirror ball."

Buffy vented her annoyance at the complication by shoving him into the nearest cage. "Fair enough," She remarked, as she looked him inside. "So I have to deal with three hell beasts. At least they'll pale in comparison to the hellgod I've been facing recently."


Angel drove her and himself to the alleyway which held the entrance to the Bronze, bringing the car to a halt when they caught sight of the three hellhounds loping towards the nightclub front door.

Buffy vaulted into the rear passenger seats, and grabbing her crossbow, fired a direct shot at the slowest of them.

The beast went down with a yelp. As it nursed it's wound, the other two turned, growling at her.

Angel restarted the engine, and the hounds began to chase them.

"That's right," the slayer mused. "Follow Buffy. Good dogs."

However, they had barely reached the turning of the main street before the opening music echoed through buildings, calling the beasts away from the car.

"Oh, come on," Buffy groaned. "That song sucks."

"I'll park," Angel remarked. "You go."

"See ya there," Buffy acknowledged before vaulting out of the car and running after the beasts.

She followed them into the backstage area of the Bronze, where the dressing rooms, toilets and old props from past band performances were located. Grabbed a large banner from the wall, Buffy pounced on one beast, wrapping the hellhound inside it, before grabbing the other to wound it with her knife.

The first beast wrestled free of the poster just as she finished stabbing the second in the chest, and she made to grab for it.

The door leading from the dancefloor opened and a guy entered the corridor.

"Get back!" Buffy cried as she grabbed the beast. With one swift movement she snapped the dogs' neck, then looked up at the shaken guest.

"Bathroom?" He asked nervously.

"That way," Buffy directed with her hand.

"Th-th-tha..." the guy tried to say.

"You're welcome," Buffy preempted him.

When he was gone, she grabbed the beasts, dragging them outside.

Angel met her at the back door. "Sorry, it took a while to find a parking space," he apologised as she let go of one beast for him to carry.

Together they hid the dead animals in an abandoned warehouse nearby, then retrieved their own formal wear from the car to change, before returning to the Bronze.


"Hey guys," Buffy remarked as she and Angel entered, causing the scoobies to make their way over to them.

"Everything taken care of?" Wesley asked anxiously.

"Beasts killed," Buffy replied, "Owner impounded. We've hid them in the warehouse. We'll dispose of them after the party."

"How it's going?" Angel asked as they surveyed the band and the dancing guests.

"Very well," Wesley replied. "So far I've raised enough to clear my debts. Now we just need a profit."

"Any sign of Glory?" Buffy asked.

"Nope," Tara replied from her place at Spike's arm. Every girl of the slayerettes had gone for long gowns in varying shades of colour; her's a deep blue silk which contrasted well with her pale skin. Cordelia had gone for dark red, whilst Willow chose a light grey. Elita wore pale yellow and Anya wore green, while Buffy went for the purple gown Angel had given her a few weeks ago, before the full danger of Glory was discovered.

"Come on," Doyle said as the music changed to another slow jazz piece. "Let's show everyone how it's done."

One by one the guys whisked their girls out on to the floor, as they lost themselves in the well earned victory party.

Unnoticed by them, a figure stood at the threshold of the dancefloor, watching the woman who had been responsible for foiling his brother's plans, vowing silent revenge.

The End
To Be Continued In

I Was Made To Love You.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Dialogue has been taken from the original episode, of which this is follows closely, minus certain necessary changes concerning Spike and Elita. I have also added some additional scenes to change the arc of the story to more of a debate concerning humanity , which essentially is what Season Five is all about. Enjoy.


I Was Made TO Love You.

The town above the hellmouth had settled into night long ago when a car rounded the corner into the main street. Inside the driver brought the vehicle to a halt by the sidewalk, before clicking off the auto-lock to allow his passenger to exit. The young woman leaned in through the open window on his side to thank him.

"Thank you for picking me up," she said. "I'm very grateful for the ride."

"You sure you want to get out here?" The driver asked her. "I mean, this place is kinda ..." he glanced around, unsure of what word to use without unduly scaring her. "What are you looking for in Sunnydale, anyway?"

"True love," the woman replied before walking away.

The driver watched her for a while, making sure she was in no danger, then quietly drove way. He has places to go to, people to see.

As for the young woman, she continued to walk the streets, searching for the true love whom had accidentally left her behind.

She was certain she would find him soon.

 


"Willow's good at all that computer stuff, but me not so much," Tara remarked to her companion as they traversed the campus the next morning. "Do you really understand all that?" She asked curiously.

"Oh. Well, at first it was confusing," Anya confessed. "Just the idea of computers was like, 'whoa, I'm eleven hundred years old. I had trouble adjusting to the idea of Lutherans.'"

Tara nodded in semi-understanding. "I go online sometimes, but ... everyone's spelling is really bad, and it's ... depressing."

"But you have to try online trading, it's great!" Anya argued. "The secret is avoiding the tech companies everyone was jumping on, and, and going with the smaller firms that supply the basic components."

"Uh-huh," Tara nodded, mainly for empathy.

"Anyway, I took the money from working for Spike, and I tripled it," Anya continued.

"Tripled?" Tara queried. "Like, first money, then money, money, money?"

"Yes," the former vengeance demon confirmed. "I'm thinking about buying something very expensive. Maybe an antelope."

"Hi," a young woman remarked to them suddenly, making them come to a halt and look at the newcomer before them.

"Hi," Anya returned.

"I'm looking for Warren," the woman informed them. "Do you know where Warren is? And if you do, could you tell me?"

"Um, I, don't think we know a Warren," Tara replied, while Anya shook her head.

The young woman was not too disappointed. "Well, all righty, no harm in asking. Thanks!" She smiled them before walking away, heading to another student, seated on one of the benches, reading a newspaper.

"Hi, do you know Warren?" She asked. "I need to find him."

"Uh, sorry," the guy replied before the two slayerettes moved out of earshot.

"You, you can do all this stuff with a regular computer?" Tara asked.

Anya nodded. "I'll show you. You can also see the website I designed for the magic shop. Huge photo of me."

 




"You sure I should be here?"

Buffy glanced up at her boyfriend, a mixture of mild annoyance and mild bemusement crossing her features. "Angel, your perpetually youthful features make you look the same age as every other student here. Just because you're a professor doesn't mean you're banned from the dorm parties. Besides, I'm sure no one will recognise you."

Angel nodded, still gazing around the room in concern. Buffy sighed and yanked his hand, pulling his face level with her own, whereupon she kissed him thoroughly. By the time she stopped, he was looking at her with an entirely different expression.

"Ready to party?" She asked him.

"Depends what you had in mind." He smiled at her.

"Let's join the others," Buffy replied, "I want to chill for a few hours, then we can have the party you just suggested."

Angel smiled and let her lead him to the group of slayerettes congregated around the snacks.

"Look at these tiny grain patties," Anya remarked as she ate a Chex Mix. "They're woven. That's craftsmanship."

"They aren't hand-woven, you know," Xander informed her.

"Then how?" Anya asked.

"Well, it's a machine, and it's ... it sorta .. it presses," Xander replied distractedly, his attention caught by a strange young woman entering the room. "And there may be a mould of some sort ..." he trailed off to ask, "who's that?"

"Warren?" the young woman asked.

Unseen a guy looked up nervously, before quietly slipping away.

"Oh, that girl," Anya remarked. "Tara and I met her. She speaks with a strange evenness and selects her words a shade too precisely."

"Well, some of us like that kind of thing in a girl," Xander replied, smiling at her.

"Warren?" the young woman persisted.

The guy who nervously looked up before slipping away, now rejoined his date for the party, who was sitting with her friends, waiting for him to return.

"Hi, did you get me a drink?" She asked him.

"We gotta go, she's gonna see me," the guy replied.

"She who?" His date asked. "What's up, Warren?"

"It doesn't matter," Warren replied, anxious to escape. "Come on."

"Is Warren here?" the young woman continued to ask.

"I thought you were getting the crunchies," Willow asked as she joined Anya and Xander.

"Xander got hypnotised by the strange girl," Anya replied. "I am remaining calm, however."

"Uh-uh, no," Xander replied, unconvincingly. "I'm, right with you. You don't know what you're talking about."

The young woman approached them. "I heard that Warren was here. Is Warren here?"

"Um, Warren who?" Xander asked.

"He's ... Warren." the woman replied. "And he's looking for me. He lost me." She walked over to another group of students. "Is Warren here?"

"It's that girl again," Tara murmured to Buffy and Angel. "Is she still looking for Warren? Weird, it's been like all day."

"There's something strange about her," Cordelia remarked. "She talks funny."

"Some men find that appealing," Anya said, echoing her still distracted boyfriend.

"I just hope she finds him," Tara added.

"Somehow I don't think a girl that looks like that's gonna be lonely for too long," Xander remarked.

"Definitely not," Spike added, causing Tara to frown. "Oh, not me, I was just saying, a pretty girl like that, there's always someone lurking around, looking for some action."

"Speaking of lurking," Buffy began, "I think one of us ought to talk to that girl," she looked at Spike.

The chipped vampire appeared insulted. "Why me?" He asked.

"Because you're the one who can tell if she's human," Buffy replied.

"So can Angel," Spike retorted.

"We need your style of attack," Buffy continued. "Angel's more discreet."

"Hey, I can do discreet," Spike assured her.

"Maybe you should, Angel," Tara said.

"You're right," Angel replied, and made to move, before Spike stopped him.

"Watch me," he remarked before heading towards her.

"Have you seen Warren?" the girl asked another student.

"No, sorry," the student replied before walking away.

"And who are you, darlin'?" Spike asked her.

"I'm April," the woman replied. "I'm looking for my fella."

"Maybe you just found him," Spike replied.

"Really?" April cried. "Where?"

Spike leaned in to whisper in her ear.

"Oh!" April gasped, before grabbing his shirt and lifting him over her head.

"Hey! Hey! Hey!" Spike cried, causing the party to come to a complete stop as everyone looked at them.

"That would be wrong," April remarked. "You are not my boyfriend!" She added before throwing him through a window, shattering the glass.


Spike rose up from the ground. "Bloody hell! You threw me through a window! What's that about?"

"You do not make those suggestions to me," April replied. "I have a boyfriend. Warren is my boyfriend."

"You know what?" Spike returned. "My bleeding sympathies to Warren." He turned and walked away, heading to a concerned Tara at the entrance of the dorms.

April turned round. "No one but Warren can touch me," she remarked before walking away through the crowds.

Buffy calmly intercepted her. "Excuse me. Hi. Um, uh, maybe you and I could talk. You know, 'cause, throwing Spike through a window," she paused, catching Angel's half-hidden smirk, "well, that's really good... um, but, you know, generally speaking-"

"Do you know my boyfriend?" April interrupted her.

"Okay. I think you need to take a second and stop looking for your boyfriend," Buffy suggested.

April grabbed her arms and flung her backwards. "I have to find him," she added, as Angel caught his soulmate, helping her up from the floor.

"If I hurt you just now, I'm sorry," April apologised. "And I hope that your boyfriend will take good care of you," she added before walking away.


"Ow," Buffy groaned as she gently tested her injured arms a few moments later in the student lounge, where the slayerettes had called an emergency meeting. "I don't know about you guys, but I've had it with super-strong little women who aren't me."

"Well, at least she didn't do too much damage," Cordelia remarked.

"Are you kidding?" Xander queried. "Double-glazed windows ain't cheap. And the jamb needs to be completely repaired," he paused, coming to an internal revelation. "Oh dear god, I'm the grown up who sees the world through my job. I'm like my uncle Dave the plumber. I must be shunned."

"Happy to oblige, mate," Spike remarked.

"So, what do you guys think she is?" Buffy asked them. "I mean, this may sound nuts, but I kinda got the impression that she was a-"

"Robot," Tara finished, causing all of them to nod in agreement.

"Oh yeah, robot," Xander added.

Buffy sank into the sofa next to her boyfriend. "Yeah, I was gonna say robot. What do you think she wants?"

"Warren, whoever that is," Tara replied.

"It's gotta be the guy that built her," Xander added.

"It's an unusual name," Willow mused. "There's hardly any except ... Warren Beatty and, you know, President Harding. It's probably not either of them."

"Will, can you track down this guy with only a first name?" Buffy asked.

Her best friend nodded slowly. "Given enough time. I can get a list of the Sunnydale students named Warren tonight, but ... then we'll have to call them or go to their dorms, so we probably can't start narrowing it down till tomorrow."

"She could do a lot of damage by then," Anya remarked.

"She was looking for this Warren, but it didn't sound like she wanted to hurt him," Xander added. "She said he's her boyfriend."

"Okay. We'll track down Warren tomorrow," Buffy agreed. "Tonight, Angel and I better go rescue Giles. He's been watching Elita while we were out of the mansion, and I have a feeling there's only so much he can take."

"Oh, Giles and Elita?" Tara remarked. "I bet they ended up having a blast."


"Dear god, Buffy, there's only so much I can take," Giles declared to his daughter in all but blood and name when she and Angel returned to the mansion. "We're going to have to change the system. A fourteen-year-old's too old to be babysat, and it's not fair on her."

Angel smirked. "What'd she make you do?"

"Um, well, we listened to aggressively cheerful music sung by people chosen for their ability to dance," Giles replied, "Then we ate cookie dough and talked about boys."

Buffy laughed, until she caught his frown. "I'm sorry. I'm very very sorry, but if it makes you feel any better, my 'fun time Buffy party night' involved watching a robot throw Spike through a window, so if you wanna trade..." she paused, considering. "No ... wait ... I wouldn't give that memory up for anything."

"I would, luv," Spike replied behind them.

"A robot?" Giles queried. "Sounds interesting."

"We're gonna work on it in the morning," Buffy replied. "You need to get back to your wife and my godson."

"I do," Giles agreed, before walking past them into the night. He halted briefly by his car before getting in. "Seriously, Buffy, we need a system with Elita."

"I know, Giles," Buffy sighed. "I'm just not sure what will work."


"Yeah? What?" A guy asked wearily as he opened his front door across town.

April beamed at him. "Hi! Does Warren live here?"

The guy frowned. "What the hell - what are you doing, it's three-thirty am!"

"Yes, it is!" April replied, still smiling. "Does Warren live here?"

The guy glared at her, then slammed the door in her face.

"Okay then," April replied to the wooden barrier before walking away. "Bye."

She left the drive and walked to the next house to continue her enquiries.


"And you're certain she was a robot?" Giles asked in the more reasonable morning hours later at the Magic Box.

"Absolutely," Buffy replied.

"No blood in her at all," Spike added.

"She was looking for someone named Warren," Anya continued.

"Willow's already checked the Sunnydale enrolment," Buffy informed her watcher.

"And got nothing," her best friend replied. "I found one Warren, but he moved out of the country a year ago. I'm checking nearby schools."

"Whoever he is, he knows his stuff," Xander remarked. "That girl, well... that was a nice-looking girl."

"It's okay for him to say that, 'cause I know that he really loves me only," Anya said.

Willow tapped a few more keys on her laptop. "Hey! I think I found him. A Warren Mears. He went to Sunnydale High with us for a semester, and then he went to the tech college over in Dutton. I've got a local address where his folks still live."

"He's probably home for spring break," Oz deduced.

"Well, I'll go talk to him," Buffy decided, taking the address from Willow.

"No, wait, we don't know what you're walking into," Giles warned her. "We have no idea what his motive is for building this thing."

"She's a sexbot," Xander decided. "I mean, what guy doesn't dream about that? Beautiful girl with ... no other thought but to please you ... willing to do anything..."

"Why would anyone do that if they could have a real live person?" Anya asked.

"Maybe he couldn't," Oz replied. "Find a real person."

"Oh, come on," Buffy protested. "The guy's just a big wedge of sleaze, don't make excuses for him."

"I'm not," Oz replied. "I just think if he's this lonely, it's very sad."


Across town, Warren's girlfriend watched him pack, confused as to why he was in such a hurry to leave.

"But we just got here," she protested. "If you don't wanna be here, why didn't we just stay in Dutton? Or we could have gone to my sister's."

"Katrina, I don't wanna hear about your sister's place again," Warren replied. "Pack your stuff now."

"Why the rush?" Katrina persisted. "It's real early. Are we even gonna say goodbye to your mom?"

"Uh, you can call her," Warren decided hurriedly.

"Warren. Is something going on you don't want me to see?" Katrina asked him.

"Katrina, um, if you don't wanna pack, that's fine. We can buy new stuff. Now let's just go!" He grabbed his bag and her hand, heading for the door.

He opened the object just in time to find a unknown blonde woman, her hand raised to knock, standing outside.

"I have to talk to you," she informed him.

Katrina frowned. "Who's this?"

"Is this about her?" Warren guessed.

"Yes," the blonde replied.

"Her who?" Katrina asked. "Warren, something's going on here. Strange girls..."

"Katrina," Warren interrupted, "please be quiet, okay, this is important. Wait in the kitchen."

"And I'm not important?" Katrina retorted. "Warren, just tell her to go away."

"I can't," Warren replied.

"You're keeping secrets from me," Katrina realised. "Other girls, and who knows what else?"

Warren sighed. "Trina, shut up."

"That's it," Katrina replied. "Forget it, Warren. I'm gone." She walked past the blonde, down the street and away.

"No, Katrina! Ahhh...." Warren sighed before stepping back to let the blonde inside.

"My name is Buffy Summers," she informed him. "We were at Sunnydale High together. Do you know who I am?"

"Yes, I know," Warren replied. "Um, April, did she hurt someone?"

"Not yet," Buffy replied.

"She's looking for me," Warren revealed. "You know, uh, she followed me here."

Buffy nodded. "Okay, kind of figured that out."

Warren shook his head. "No, no, there's more. Uh, there's something you need to know about her."

"I know," Buffy replied.

"No, wait, this is important," Warren added.

"Believe me, I worked it out," Buffy tried to assure him.

"No, this is something, uh, that you can't possibly know." Warren took a deep breath. "She's a robot."

"Uh-huh," Buffy replied.


"I'm looking for my boyfriend Warren," April announced to the customers and staff of the Expresso Pump.

"What?" One asked.

"He comes from here and I need him," April replied. "But ... it's confusing, and I've already walked a really long way. I'm sure he's nearby."

"Oh, Warren!" The guy cried. "You're looking for Warren?"

April's face brightened. "Yes! Do you know him? Do you know where he is?"

"Man, let me think," the guy mused.

"Please think," April urged him.

"Geez, this is too bad, you, you just missed him," the guy remarked.

"Yes? Where did he go?" April asked.

"Warren? Uh, he headed out." the guy pointed in a random direction. "Uh, that way. Hurry, you might catch him."

"Oh, thank you," April answered. "I was getting very tired. Thank you."

The guy and his companion watched her hurry away.

"Who's Warren?" the former asked.

"Hell if I know," the guy replied, causing mutual amusement.


At Warren's house, Buffy was listening to April's creature with empathy.

"They're not talking to you, you're not getting dates ... you start thinking, 'hey, this isn't fair.'"

Warren nodded. "Yeah, I mean, I felt like I deserved to have someone. You know, I mean, everyone deserves to have someone."

"So naturally you turned to manufacturing," Buffy added.

"Kinda," Warren confirmed.

"And how long did it take to build yourself that little toy?" Buffy asked.

"Oh, no, she's not a toy," Warren replied. "I mean, I know what you're thinking, but she's more than that."

"I'm sure she has many exciting labour-saving attachments," Buffy remarked sarcastically.

"No, I made her to love me," Warren replied. "I mean, she cares about what I care about, and she wants to be with me. She listens to me and supports me. I didn't make a toy. I made a girlfriend."

"A girlfriend," Buffy echoed. "Are you saying ... are you in love with her?"

Warren sighed. "I really thought I would be. I mean, she's perfect. I don't know, I ... I guess it was too easy. And predictable. You know, she got boring. She was exactly what I wanted, and I didn't want her. I thought I was going crazy."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Really? You?"

"Then something happened," Warren continued. "Katrina, was in my engineering seminar, and she was really funny and cool. You know, she was always giving me a hard time, real ... unpredictable. She builds these little model monorails that run with magnets, and ... Anyway. I fell in love with Katrina."

"Swell," Buffy mused. "Romance and magnetic trains. But first you decided to take April out of the box, play with her for five minutes, and then what? You got bored, decided to dump her, tell her to go away?"

"Kinda," Warren confirmed.

"And she got mad. She didn't go, huh?" Buffy guessed.

"Okay, I didn't really dump her, as much as I, uh, went out, and, uh, didn't come back," Warren confessed. "I left her, I ... left her in my dorm room."

"You left her in your dorm room?!" Buffy cried incredulously.

"Well, I figured I could just kinda get away until her batteries gave out," Warren replied. "Which should have been days ago."

"Did you even tell her?" Buffy asked. "I mean, did you even give her a chance to fix what was wrong?"

"I didn't need to fix anything," Warren protested. "I mean, her batteries were supposed to run down. Really, they should be completely dead by now."

"So why aren't they?" Buffy asked him.

"I don't know," Warren answered. "I mean, maybe ... uh, she must be recharging them somehow."

Buffy looked at him. "Warren, this is important. Is she dangerous?"

He shook his head. "She's only programmed to be in love."

"Then she's dangerous," Buffy realised. "Do you have any idea how to find her?"

"Well, she's looking for me, so my guess is she's probably pretty close," Warren speculated.


April was indeed nearby, infact, she ran into Katrina.

"Hi!" She cried. "Do you know where Warren is? I need to get to Warren."

"This is getting insane, how many of you are there?" Katrina asked her.

"There's only me. April."

"April. Fine. Listen up, April. Warren is my boyfriend. Mine. And you others probably oughta figure that out."

April grabbed her arm.

"Ow. Ow! Let go!" Katrina cried.

"Don't go," April commanded. "You have to stay and tell the truth." She pulled Katrina towards her, turning her around to wrap her arms around her, pinning Katrina's to her side. She locked her hands over Katrina's stomach and squeezed, making her gasp for air.

"You're lying," April remarked. "He cannot be your boyfriend. Say that he's my boyfriend."

"I can't ... I can't breathe. Let go!" Katrina pleaded.

"You have to stop lying," April continued.


"April! April, are you there?" Warren called out as he and Buffy walked up the street from his house in search of her. "If the batteries are still working and she hears my voice, then ... she'll answer," Warren explained.

"She's voice-activated?" Buffy asked.

"Well, I made it so that if she heard me and she didn't answer, it causes this kind of feedback," Warren replied.

"Wait, if you call her and she doesn't answer, it hurts her?" Buffy sought to confirm. "You' re one creepy little dweeb, Warren."

"April!" Warren cried out.

"Warren!" She answered.

Buffy and he came to a shocked halt as they took in the sight before them; April holding Katrina by the neck.

"April," Warren gasped.

"Where have you been?" April asked. "I couldn't find you, and this girl kept lying to me, and ... then she went to sleep."

"April, what did you do?" Warren asked her.

"Please don't be angry, Warren," April replied. "I'm trying very hard to make you happy."

"April," Buffy said. "I want you to put the girl down."

"Warren? What should I do?" April asked.

Buffy turned to the hesitant boy. "Talk to her!"

"Pu-put her down!" Warren cried.

"Okay," April complied.

"This is Buffy," Warren informed her. "Give Katrina to Buffy."

April handed the girl to Buffy, who carefully laid her on a nearby bench, checking her neck for a pulse.

"Is she broken?" April asked.

"She's alive," Buffy replied with relief.

"Warren, honey, what's going on?" April asked him. "Why did you go away? Is it a game?"

Warren shook his head. "No. No, this isn't a game."

"Did I do something wrong?" April asked. "I waited a long time and you never came back. A long time. I made you five sweaters."

Warren leapt on that mark of achievement. "That's great, you could go back and get them. So you could wait there, and-"

"Warren!" Buffy cried as she cradled Katrina's head in her lap, making him look at them. "You have to tell her. And do it right."

"What is she saying, Warren? What do you need to tell me?"

"April, I made a mistake," Warren continued.

April laughed. "You can't make mistakes."

"No, I did," Warren persisted. "I thought that I made you everything that I wanted, but it wasn't really what I wanted. I'm sorry, but it's over."

"But ... I can be whatever you want," April argued. "I love you. I'll do whatever you want. Would you like a neck rub?"

"No. See, I know that you love me, but the truth is, I can't love you. I mean, it's not your fault, but... I don't love you." Rapidly, Warren moved so April could see Buffy and Katrina. "I love her!"

April growled.

Buffy frowned. "She growls? You made her so she growls?"

"Well..." Warren began, before backing away.

Buffy turned to April, who grabbed her and flung her away. She rose from the grass she landed on, watching her opponent as she snapped off a piece of the seesaw nearby. She approached Buffy, swinging the wood at her. Slayer reflexes in control, she took hold of the weapon, causing them to wrestle for sovereignty. Buffy kicked her in the stomach, causing April to stumble backwards, clutching the bench for support.

Buffy aimed the wood at her opponent, but April dodged the hit, and the it impacted on the bench instead, causing Katrina to wake up. Buffy swung again, this time managing to hit April, tearing away her dress, exposing the complex machinery beneath her synthetic skin.

"What's going on?" Katrina asked.

"No, no, Trina- Get away," Warren urged.

Buffy swung the wood at April again, but she grabbed the weapon, pulling it out of the slayer's hands, tossing it away before punching her. Buffy turned the force of the punch to her advantage, executing a back flip before dodging another punch to land one on April.

Katrina stared at the girl in sudden understanding. "What is ... what ... that's a robot!"

"She wasn't just for sex," Warren hurriedly replied.

"Is that ... is that your ex-girlfriend?" Katrina asked him." He turned her, ready to reply, but she cut him off. "No, get the hell away from me!"

Warren followed her. "No, no, no, Trina, no, Trina, wait..."

Buffy kicked April into the sand next to the swings, before grabbing the chain supports of one to hit her opponent with it.

April grabbed her by the throat, lifting her into the sky. "You took my man. I'm going to kill you. I'm going to ..." she paused suddenly, "I can't, I can't crush! So ... tired." She let go of Buffy, staring at her hand. "Warren? Where are you? What's happening to me?"

Buffy slowly recovered. Gently she took April's hand. "You're running out of power," she informed her. "Do you know what that means?"

April nodded.

"Let's sit," Buffy suggested. indicating the swings. "Can you cry?" she asked her curiously. "Sometimes I feel better when I cry. But ... there might be rust issues."

April leaned against the chain support for the swing as she replied. "Crying is blackmail. Good girlfriends don't cry."

"Oh," Buffy replied, unsure what to say to that.

"I rechecked everything," April remarked. "I did everything I was supposed to do. I was a good girlfriend."

"I'm sure you were," Buffy uttered consolingly.

"I'm only supposed to love him," April added. "If I can't do that, what am I for? What do I exist for?"

"I don't know," Buffy answered honestly. "It isn't fair. He wasn't fair to you."

April glanced at the brightly sunny day surrounding them. "It's getting dark," she murmured. "It's so early to be dark."

"Yeah," Buffy replied sadly.

"What if he comes back and he can't find me in the dark?" April asked her.

"I'm here. I'll make sure that he finds you," Buffy promised.

April smiled in sudden thought. "Maybe this is a girlfriend test. If I wait here patiently this time, he'll come back."

Buffy decided to comfort her as best she could. "I'm sure he will. And he'll ... he'll tell you how sorry he is. You know, he told me ... how proud he was of you and ... how impressed he was with how much you loved him and how you tried to help him. He didn't mean to hurt you."

"He's going to take me home, and things will be right again," April decided.

Buffy nodded. "It'll be fine."

"When things are sad," April's speech pattern began to slow, "you just have to be patient. Because ... because every ... cloud has a silver lining. And ... when life ... gives you lemons ... make ... lemonade."

"Clouds and lemonade, huh?" Buffy mused.

"Yes. And ... and ... things are ... always ... darkest ... before...." she froze, a sort of peaceful smile fixed on her face.

Buffy watched her before turning to glance at the road, as a familiar car pulled up outside the playground. She watched her soulmate climb out of the vehicle and make his way over to them.

"How was she?" Angel asked her as he came to a halt by his beloved.

"Sad," Buffy replied. "She devoted everything to making this one person happy. And then it was like, with him gone, there was just ... no reason for her to exist any more." She sighed, rising from the swing to wrap her arms around him, seeking comfort. "In many ways, she was just a normal girl."

The End
To Be Continued In
Pavlof's Bell.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: This is a rewrite of The Body, which due to my changes to canon, I removed from the series. It focuses on Spike's evolution from vampire to a force for good on the hellmouth, and references several episodes, noticeably; Lover's Walk, Crush, and Lies My Parents Told Me. I have put this from Spike's perspective, and I refer to Buffy and Angel in only a background sense, something which I rarely do. I have also tried to give an insight into the progress of Spike and Tara's relationship, which is considerably different from the B/S slant which Joss chose to visit. This is the first in a series of three really, as I thought two episodes on Spike would explain his actions in Enlightenment (Intervention) which I felt was needed when I made Elita a rescued friend as opposed to Buffy's younger sister. Enjoy.

Pavlov's Bell.

Xander had managed to secure Aimee Mann to play at the Bronze tonight, a considerable coup. Spike was on an assignment from Wyndam-Pryce Investigations, which had picked up more business since the fund raiser a fortnight ago, otherwise there would have been little occasion for him to be in the club on this particular night. Usually he would be minding the Magic Box and or spending time with his girlfriend. His relationship with Tara was going well, despite the contrasts of their lives, species, characters and dispositions. He gave her self-confidence, whilst she, by simply showing how different he was with her to the vampire once out to kill them, silently promoted his place in the slayerettes to be accepted, even welcomed.

The couple under surveillance moved on to the dancefloor, causing Spike to concentrate on them more, else lose them in the melee. His ears were only slightly tuned to the music, identifying the song through the chorus as opposed to one of the many tracks he listened to with the Scoobies during chill or research times. He had yet to realise that anything else about the night would be significant, otherwise he would have been more observant as to what was going on around him. He would only discover later that what occurred would have a bearing on what was to come.

As the song drew to a close, the couple began to leave first the dancefloor then the club, causing Spike to move from the mezzanine walkway above the former to the stairs to the ground floor after them. He exited the Bronze at a discreet distance behind them, watching as something detached itself from the shadows of the alley to attack them.

Spike broke from a casual walk into a full sprint, launching himself on the stalker, clamping his hand upon the guy's mouth before forcibly dragging him back into the darkness from whence he came.

"What the hell are you doing here, mate?" He asked him in a harsh whisper, releasing the grip on his mouth to let the man reply, before the chip inside him registered the possible damage he was doing to a human being, and offered up retribution. "I thought my boss told you to wait at home for our call."

"I had to see if it was true," the man, Wesley's client, replied desolately.

"Yeah, well, unfortunately, it is," Spike said, "and that's what you paid us to find out for ya, remember?" He reminded him. "We told you that this would be too bloody dangerous for you to see by yourself. That it could get ya dead."

"What about you?" The client asked.

"I'm already dead, mate," Spike replied, causing his companion to gasp as he took in the evidence that he was serious. "Now, I want you to go into that club, up to the bar, and ask for the manager. Tell him I sent you and he'll see you get home safe. Okay?"

The client sighed in surrender. "Okay. Just promise me you'll protect her."

"I will, mate," Spike replied, "that's the other thing you paid us for. Now go."

He pushed him into the alley, keeping one eye on the couple and the other on their client, a difficult task as they were now going in opposite directions. After seeing the latter go inside the Bronze, Spike left the shadows to catch up with the couple, who were by now nearly out of the alley.

Even now he wondered what would have happened if the suspect had turned out to be someone else. Would it have a made a difference to his actions, to the end result of the night, which caused what occurred next to become inevitable? Sometimes he was certain; others he wasn't so sure. At that moment such philosophical thought was not a habit of his as it would become later, and he was more worried about how to rescue the girl without letting the suspect know his cover was blown.

Which is why he let loose his ridged forehead and fangs before confronting them when they reached their destination; Restfield graveyard.

"Hey, mate," he greeted, his native brogue in full force, causing the vampire to look up from his victim's neck in surprise. "Fancy sharing?"

"Spike?" The vamp queried in astonishment. "I thought you had no trouble in getting meals yourself."

"Oh, I used to," Spike replied, edging closer and closer until he was almost on top of them. "But then these army guys trapped me. Proper bastards they were. They put this chip in me and now I have to ask guys to share else suffer terrible pain." When you are trying to bluff someone, it is always best to go with the truth. How they interpret it is up them.

The vamp looked at him carefully, considering. Spike let his eyes acquire a longing look, before directing them to the human neck in the vamp's grasp. For a moment he was convinced that his old friend was not going to buy the deception, then suddenly he pushed the girl into his chest.

"Fair enough," the vamp decided. "After all, I owe you one for that time in Bulgaria."

"Yeah, you do," Spike agreed, carefully fixing the girl's arm around his waist, locking into his belt, leaving both his hands free for what would come next. He held out his hand for a friendly shake. As the vampire took it, Spike swiftly pulled him closer, before retrieving a weapon from his jacket pocket and staking the guy through the heart.

"Consider us even, mate," he remarked as the undead body slowly transformed from a walking corpse into ashes.

He would remember this moment for the rest of his days. The body in his arms. The pounding of her heart echoing through his ears. The pliant neck before him, with the warm, virgin skin just begging to be penetrated. Before he was even aware of it, his mouth inched closer and closer to the surface of the flesh. There was no warning, no alarm bells ringing through his mind, sending shivers of blinding pain through the nerve receptors inside his brain, which should have tipped him off. He felt no pain, only the need to satisfy his desires. It's power was almost overwhelming, seductive, addictive, and like one who had been off the wagon before, he longed to fall into the hole again. For over a year he had been living on pigs blood, no substitute for the taste of human's, for the purity, for the high he felt from draining the life out of someone. True, he still killed demons, slayed vampires, but it wasn't the same. It didn't quench the demon within him, the evil within him.

Evil. Perhaps that was the would which broke him from his course, prevented him from breaking his promise to their client and causing harm to come to the girl. All he knew was that he suddenly became startlingly aware of lack of distance between the girl's neck and his fangs. Revolted, he flinched and released her, hiding the demon in his face so by the time she opened her tear ridden eyes to gaze on him, there was nothing to fear.

"Thank you," she said, as if she hadn't noticed the seemingly long time between his slaying of the vampire and her release. "How did you know I was in danger?"

"Your husband told us, luv," he replied, inwardly struggling to contained the sudden turmoil from coming to the forefront. "He believed you were cheating on him."

"I nearly did," she confessed. "I didn't realise the guy was a...." she trailed off, in search of the right word.

"Demon, vampire," Spike offered, "call him whatever you want. The important thing is, nothing happened. You walked out of a club with a guy who tried to attack you, and then some other guy rescued you and saw you home. That's all you need to tell your husband." He shrugged. "That and that you probably need to sort some stuff out within your marriage, but that's none of my business. I'm only paid to rescue, not do Oprah."

"Well, thanks," the girl said, "for the rescue, I mean. And I can get myself home. You don't have to...."

Spike cut her off. "All part of the service, luv." He smiled at her before offering his hand. "Come on, we'll take my car."


He didn't know how he managed to keep it together long enough to drive her home, see her safely into the arms of her husband, and then drive away. His mind was in turmoil, frantic at what he did, or rather, what he almost did, and wondering why his chip never kicked in. It was a miracle he dodged what little night traffic there was as he drove through the suburbs of the town. As it was, he was still only half aware of his actions as he pulled the Desoto to a halt outside 1630 Revello Drive.

Joyce Summers opened the door, took one look at the surprise guest standing on her doorstep, and immediately stepped aside to usher him in. She pushed him into the living room, and turned a concerned face to her date.

"Alex, I'm sorry, we're gonna have to cut this short," she said, causing her companion to rise from the sofa. "This is one of Buffy's friends, and he looks like he needs some help."

"I'll say," Dr Alex Byrne agreed as he walked to the doorway into the hall where Joyce and Spike were standing. "He looks like he need a hot drink and a chat," he added. "I'll call you in the morning, Joyce."

"Goodnight," Joyce remarked, leaving Spike alone to see her date to the door. "And thanks for being so understanding."

"Anytime," Alex replied, before kissing her.

Spike turned round in time to see the end of the embrace, watching as Joyce closed the door and walked back into the living room to rejoin him.

"I'm sorry," he began, "I interrupted something, didn't I?"

"It's fine," Joyce assured him, guiding him to the armchair he usually sat in when he visited her. "You look like you need to talk to someone. Hot chocolate?" She offered.

"Yeah, if you don't mind," Spike nodded, leaning back as she disappeared into the kitchen to make them.

It took less time than he thought, as she came back later, placing the drink before him on the coffee table.

"Now, what's wrong?" Joyce asked him after taking a sip of her own, leaning forward in her seat on the sofa. "I thought you were out on case for Wes."

"I was," Spike replied, as he carefully brought the drink to his mouth, trying to control the shaking of his hands. "Something happened, Joyce," he confessed, "something I didn't think would ever happen again."

"Something you can't talk to my daughter about?" Joyce guessed. "Or Angel, or Tara?"

"If they knew," Spike flinched despite himself at the mere idea of it, "they'd kill me."

"I doubt that," Joyce attempted to assure him.

Spike shook his head. "You don't know what I did," he replied.

"I think I can figure," Joyce uttered. "Which was it; you drank from someone, or you killed them?"

"Almost both," Spike admitted.

To his surprise, Joyce was not even shocked. "I can see why you believe that you can't talk to them," she replied. "Now, why don't you tell me exactly what happened?"

"Wes had this guy who thought his wife was cheating on him with a demon," Spike began. "The guy asked us to follow her, and save her. I did. She was in the Bronze with this fella, who turned out to be an old vamp friend of mine, from back in the day, by the way." He took a quick sip of his drink. "Anyway, they left the club....."

"Hang on," Joyce interrupted, "back up a second. You were in the club, watching them. Where were you and where were they?"

"I was on the walkway and they were dancing below me," Spike replied, confused as to why this was important.

"Who were they dancing to?" Joyce asked.

"Er, Aimee Mann," Spike answered.

"You know which track?"

"Yeah, I do, but I don't see how this matters."

"Everything might," Joyce replied. "Something obviously prevented your chip from kicking in. Now it could be that it's beginning to run out, or that something from the outside affected it."

Spike looked at her in surprise. "You think my chip broke?"

"Well, Willow and Oz never fully decrypted those files from the Initiative," Joyce reminded him. "And there was nothing on your chip. We don't know what Professor Walsh had in mind when she developed it."

"You mean it could have a sell by date?" Spike asked.

"Or she installed a behavioural modification within it," Joyce argued. "Something which triggered you to give into your demonic desires. She created Adam after all, maybe she had something in mind other than just preventing vampires from biting humans."

"Hell of a coincidence, then," Spike mused after taking another sip of hot chocolate. "Aimee Mann's song was called Pavlov's Bell."

Joyce nodded in agreement. "So what happened next? Had the song finished before you left the club?"

"Nearly. You think it's that song then?"

"No," Joyce replied, "otherwise you would have reacted at the beginning."

"Oh. Well, they left the club, and I followed them. Suddenly I saw the husband come out from the shadows and attempt to follow them too, but I grabbed him before he could, and convinced him to let me handle it. I ordered him back into the club, and then followed the girl and guy, all the way to Restfield. I watched him get ready to take her, and then I let my vamp face show and confronted him. I pretended I was looking for a share, 'cause I couldn't cause harm anymore. I don't know if it was because he recognised me, or what, but he let me have her. I held out my hand for him to shake, and with the girl leaning on my chest, I pulled him in to me and staked him." Spike paused to sip his drink before continuing. "Then, I don't know what happened, but the next thing I remember is holding the girl's neck before my fangs, ready to drink from her, when something stopped me. It was like I was in a dream or something, and suddenly I woke up. I flinched and pushed her away. She thanked me and then I drove her home before coming here." He leaned back into the armchair to look Mrs Summer straight in the eye. "So, do you think I'm crazy, my chip's broke, or the Initiative rang the bell and had me wagging my tail?"

"Honestly, I'm not sure," Joyce admitted. "But I think you should realise how far you've come from those dark days, else you could have killed that girl. I think you're stronger than you realise, Spike. I also think you need to tell Tara, Buffy, Angel and Giles about what happened tonight. And don't worry, I'll be there for you if you need me."

"Joyce, how can I tell them that I almost killed someone?" Spike asked her.

"Almost," she pointed out, "that's the key point. Almost, not actually. Spike, they will understand. And they need to know, so they can help you figure out what's gone wrong with your chip, and how to prevent it from happening again. And how to protect you and others if it does."

Silently Spike nodded as he finished his drink, accepting her reasoning, if not actually agreeing with it.

"I have the guest bed made up," Joyce offered, "if you don't feel like going home. I'm sure Buffy and Angel will understand."

"I hope so," Spike remarked as he stood up. "Thanks, Joyce, but I should go home." He walked to doorway leading to the hall, and she rose to join him. To his surprise and hers, he found himself hugging her in gratitude. "Thanks."

"Anytime," she replied, before seeing him to the door. She watched him climb into his car, making sure he was well enough to drive it home, before she closed the door.


If Buffy, Elita or Angel noticed that Spike was quieter than usual the next morning, none of them pressed him for an explanation when they joined each other at the breakfast table in the Crawford Mansion kitchen. Nor did they happen to observe that his meal was wheetabix, milk and sugar, as opposed to wheetabix mixed with blood, his usual dish of choice. Spike could not face the thought of drinking blood at the moment, even soaked into something to texture the taste.

Waiting until Elita was safely with Ellis at the Sunnydale College crèche, and Buffy and Angel had left for their morning classes, Spike phoned Anya to ask for her to cover his shift at the Magic Box. He then phoned Wes to assure him that the case from the night before was solved, before dialling a third number into the phone.

"Tara, luv, it's me," he greeted her softly.

"Hey Spike," she replied, "what's up?"

"I kinda need to talk to you, luv," he explained, "could you come over this morning? If you can't skip class, I understand...."

"No, no, it's fine," she assured him, "I'll ask Willow to lend me her notes. What's wrong?"

"I'd rather tell you face to face," he replied. "It's not anything to do with us, I promise. I know what those four words can do to a girl's mind."

"Well, luckily for you, I'm not your typical girl," Tara replied. "And you've had some experience in that area, have you?" she teased.

"Not as much as most people think," Spike confessed, causing her to laugh. "I'll see you in half an hour?"

"Of course," Tara promised.

"And, Tara," Spike paused nervously, "could you not tell Willow why you're missing class? When you get here you'll understand why."

"Sure," Tara replied. "I'll see you soon."

"Bye, luv," Spike uttered in farewell, waiting for her to reply before he replaced the receiver in the phone. He wondered into the double height living room, sinking into the comfortable sofas Buffy made Angel buy over two years ago, along with the other furniture within the house. Comfort however was far from his mind, as he wondered how Tara would take the events of what happened last night. Of all the slayerettes, she was the one who accepted him the most, treated him as if he were the same as Angel, when in reality his situation was entirely different. A part of him almost envied his grandsire now, for having something far more substantial than a microchip to control his demon. At least with a soul you tell if the controls which prevented the demon from kicking in were down to your character rather than the fear of pain infliction.

Spike was still lost in thought when he sensed rather than heard someone coming to sit beside him. He looked up in surprise to see Tara silently waiting for him to speak.

"How did you get in?" He asked her.

"I borrowed Buffy's key," Tara replied. "She's worried about you. Said you were not your usual self this morning."

"Usual self," Spike mused. "I don't think I've been my usual self since I first came to Sunnydale."

"Spike, what's wrong?" Tara asked him.

Gently he reached out and took her hands in his. Looking solemnly into her eyes, he said, "I want you to listen to me, and not to react to what I'm saying until I've finished, okay? Could you do that for me?"

"Sure, of course," Tara promised.

And she did, as Spike calmly told her everything that occurred the night before, including his conversation with Joyce Summers afterwards, much to his increasing admiration. Inwardly he realised once more how lucky he was to have her trust, her liking for him, compared with the insanity of his previous girlfriend. He never even thought of Dru nowadays, never wondered where she was. She was his past, and Tara, he hoped was his future.

"Well, I've finished my tale," he told her. "What do you think?"

"I think Mrs Summers is right," Tara replied. "You need to talk to Buffy, Angel and Giles about this. And I think she could be right about the microchip as well."

Spike nodded, glancing down at their clasped hands as he asked the next question, nervous of her reply. "And what do you think about my desires last night?"

"Like she said, the key word is almost," Tara answered. "And even if you had, I think you would be as troubled about it as you are now, maybe more." She released one of his hands to stroke his face. "You're a good person, Spike. More than you realise, sometimes. And I'm not gonna judge you for something which only the demon inside of you fully controls." She leaned forward then, putting her lips to his.

The kiss was hesitant on both sides at first, the conversation having a deep effect on their ability to relax with each other. As they realised the eager response both were giving, it gradually intensified, until their minds surrendered sovereignty to the desires entirely. He gathered her into his arms as she opened her mouth to let their tongues duel, her hands fiddling with his clothes.

Spike broke from the kiss as he felt her hands slip under his shirt, to look into eyes, asking a question he was afraid to air. Tara's response was just as silent; she withdrew her hands from him to undo the blouse she was wearing. Emboldened, he took her hands when they finished with the buttons, to pull her gently to her feet, whereupon he led her upstairs to his bedroom on the top floor.

Inside he undid his shirt, tossing the garment aside before taking her in his arms. Tara's gaze roamed over his sculpted chest, up to his face, before leaning in to resume their kiss. She let him free her of her own shirt, the blouse falling to floor as his hands went to caress her back. He unhooked her bra and she stepped back to let him explore her as she had him. Unlike Dru and Harmony, Tara was womanly curves without the anxiety to be too toned, and Spike forgot his previous lovers as he took her into his arms once more. His cold chest, devoid of body heat, hardened her nipples as he caressed her side, a long trail of strokes until he reached her skirt. He felt her hands undoing first his belt and then his jeans and stopped kissing her to look in her eyes, assuring himself she was serious about this next step one last time.

Tara smiled at him, then gracefully stepped out of her skirt and pants, before stepping away to his bed behind them. Spike watched her go, then freed himself from the remainder of his clothes before following her.


"Thank you," he uttered afterwards, as she lay in his arms, both of them gazing at the ceiling, but with out any real focus on the wooden structure. "I didn't realise how much I hated myself for doing what I did, until you showed me how much you trusted me."

"It wasn't your fault," Tara affirmed once more. "Spike, your demon is something which takes great strength to control. You can't hold yourself responsible for the microchip malfunctioning."

"You think that's what it was?" He asked her softly.

"Either that, or some sort of trigger, like Mrs Summers said." Tara turned to kiss his chest before looking into his eyes. "But for that to be true, there must have been someone from the Initiative at the Bronze. And I thought they were disbanded."

"They were," Spike confirmed, his hands gently, absently caressing her skin beneath the duvet. "Buffy learned what students survived Adam were transferred to another university. Can't think why any of them would want to come back here, after what we did to them."

"Well, we can rule that out properly when you've told Buffy, Angel and Giles," Tara reasoned, inwardly smiling as she watched him grimace at the thought. Shifting herself, she reached up to kiss the expression away. "You never know, we might be able to stop it from malfunctioning again."

"I hope so," Spike replied, gazing at her. "I didn't realise how much I don't miss being ruled by him until last night. And just now," he added before gathering her up for another, longer kiss.

"Hey, I'm trying to have a serious discussion with you here," Tara rebuked mildly, not in the least annoyed as they broke for air.

"I was thinking that could wait until Buffy and Angel are due home," Spike remarked, "and that while we're waiting, we enjoy this new stage of our relationship."

Tara pretended to consider his suggestion. "I could be persuaded," she returned.

"My pleasure," Spike uttered, before their lips met once more.


As Joyce had predicted, Buffy, Angel and Giles took the news better that Spike expected, when he told them with Tara later that afternoon. The slayer proposed they called Xander for the closed circuit television surveillance footage of the Bronze that night, along with live recordings from Aimee Mann's performance. She then turned the latter over to Oz, whose computer software could isolate sounds from one another, before loading the former into the television in the living room for the five of them to go through.

When they had watched the tapes repeatedly without recognising anyone from the Initiative, or observed anything suspicious, Buffy called Oz again, to see if he had had any success. To their surprise Oz revealed he had heard another song in the live performance, which wasn't by Aimee Mann, and offered to bring the CD over, once he finished isolating and re-burning the tune.

Once Oz had delivered the CD, Buffy put the disk in the entertainment system, while Spike made sure he stood apart from everyone in the room, afraid of what might happen. Silently the five listened to the song, four watching the chipped vampire's reaction, waiting for a sign that something was wrong.

The first flicker was his forehead ridges suddenly appearing. By the time his fangs were loose, Buffy stopped the song whilst Angel restrained his grandchilde before he could cause any damage.

They waited for him to return to his senses, and when his face was human once more, he looked at them in wordless gratitude.

"Do you recognise that song?" Giles asked him.

"I think my mother sang it to me," Spike replied, searching his mind for the few memories from before his demon existed, when he was a shy gentleman of nineteenth century London. "But I don't understand," he added, "how could the Initiative know about it? It was over a hundred years ago."

"Perhaps they had the knowledge to retrieve it from your mind," Angel suggested. "We never did discover all of their technology."

"So how do we fix this?" Spike asked.

"I'm not sure," Giles replied. "But then technology is not my strong point."

"Could we use magic?" Tara asked.

"What, like placing a barrier over the trigger?" Buffy queried.

"It might be possible," Giles confirmed. "We would have to test it though, and even then, there's no way to be sure. I did think of one source of power however which would provide us with that certainty."

"What?" Spike asked.

"Not what," Giles corrected, "but who."


Two hours later, Spike parked his Desoto in the parking lot outside a certain Los Angeles post office. Retrieving the gift which was required from the rear passenger seats, he and Tara walked to the alleyway which Doyle had described for them.

Reading from the note that the Irishman gave them, Tara prepared the ritual burning which paved the way for access, before reciting the necessary incantation.

"'We beseech access to the knowing ones.'" She read aloud, before setting the herbs aflame.

A bright white fire gave way to a bright white light, transporting them to the dimension for the Gateway for Lost Souls.

Two blue skinned beings, a man and a woman entered the room from a distant doorway to take in the sight of their visitors.

"Come before us lower beings," the man said.

"What have you brought us?" The woman asked.

Spike gave her the sculpture he had been carrying.

"Galileo," the female Oracle mused. "An interesting choice. Indicative of your motive for coming, I think. Like you, he was searching for answers as to his place in the universe."

"And risking certain death for such beliefs," the male Oracle added.

"Why have you come to us?" the woman asked.

"I'm a vampire," Spike began, "who was captured by this group called the Initiative. They put a chip inside my brain, which makes me suffer pain whenever I hurt a human."

"And you wish this chip to be removed," the male Oracle presumed. "So you can surrender to your baser, selfish desires once more."

"No," Spike shook his head. "It's malfunctioning," he explained. "The Initiative gave it a trigger, a song which when played makes me forget why I stopped taking human lives. I want you to remove that."

"Why?" the female Oracle asked. "Why should we help a vampire?"

"Because I'm not one anymore," Spike replied. "At least, I don't consider myself one, not for a long time. And I help the slayer. I fight demons, I help her fight the good fight."

"It's true, he does," Tara attempted to assure them.

"They speak the truth," the male Oracle agreed.

"Come closer," the female commanded.

Spike stepped forward, allowing her to place her hands above his head. He closed his eyes as she sensed the turmoil inside his mind.

"His demon is at war with his better nature," the female Oracle reported. "Unlike most vampires, he still retains much of what made him human. It has helped him acquire the strength to endure this chip within him." She dropped her hands.

"If we help you with this," the male Oracle began, "will you continue to evolve, as your sire has done?"

"How can I do that?" Spike asked. "Unless you want Willow to curse me with my soul, that is."

"You will learn this in time," the female Oracle replied. "For now, we need you to take that leap of faith."

"Alright," Spike murmured. "I promise to fulfil your wishes."

"It is not our wishes which take priority," the male Oracle remarked. "It is yours and yours alone."

"I promise to remain steadfast in my desire to fight the good fight," Spike corrected himself. "I promise not give in to the baser needs of my demon."

The female Oracle raised her hands and placed them above his head once more. Spike closed his eyes as he felt a strange sensation travel through his mind, akin to the tide coming in, washing away the dirt within his demon, making him feel pure and empowered.

"It is done," the female Oracle declared, removing her hands and stepping away from him.

"What exactly have you done?" Tara asked.

"We have given him a barrier between this trigger and the rest of his microchip," the Oracle explained. "From now on he will always feel pain if he attacks a human."

"Thank you," Spike added. "And I hope I can assure you that I never will."

"We know your intentions," the male Oracle answered cryptically. "Now, leave us," he commanded, waving his hands.

A brilliant white light surrounded the couple, depositing them back outside the post office.


When they arrived back in Sunnydale, Buffy insisted they tested the barrier, just to be sure, and Spike was glad she did, for he could barely believe what had occurred with the Oracles until the song his mother sang rang through his ears without the desire to drain the life from a human being afterwards.

Giles went home, while Tara joined the occupants of the Mansion on Crawford Street for dinner. Conversation was about everyday, unimportant events, as they discussed the lessons they took at university, the songs they inherited from their parents. Spike contributed when he could, but spent most of the evening listening to them, musing on all which occurred to him within the last forty-eight hours. Most of all, he wondered if this new barrier would improve his place within the gang. Or perhaps the sense that he didn't belong lay within himself, along with his need to prove that he could be more than the sum of his parts.

Perhaps with this barrier, he would have the courage to erase this insecurity within himself.

The End.
To Be Continued In.
Effulgent.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: For those who think I resolved things too easily in the last episode, just remember that they never did find out who was the source behind the malfunctioning of Spike's microchip, or if there are as yet other undiscovered triggers. This is a rewrite of Forever, completely ignoring that storyline and continuing the Spike evolution which I began in the previous episode. There is dialogue taken from Lover's Walk, and Forever, but most of this has been crafted to fit my cannon. Enjoy.

Effulgent.

"Luminous..." the young gentleman, bespectacled and attired in the latest fashion for Victorian London, circa 1880, was in the midst of muse and puzzlement, as he strove to make the expression of his love more eloquent. "Oh, no, no, no. Irraident's better."

"Care for an hors d'oeuvre, sir?" a waiter asked as he approached him, the plate of the appetiser deftly balanced on his hand.

The gentleman looked up at him as though his intervention was exceedingly timely. "Oh, quickly! I'm the very spirit of vexation. What's another word for 'gleaming?' It's a perfectly perfect word as many words go but the bother is nothing rhymes, you see."

Being a humble servant, the waiter was rather insulted to be suddenly consulted for as though a copy of Dr Johnson's, frowning at the gentleman before walking away to offer another guest of the soiree the edible delicacies he was carrying.

The gentleman's eyes returned to his poem, then raised themselves once more as a young woman entered, the intended recipient of his humble scribbling.

"Cecily..." he murmured, before returning to his poem with renewed purpose and energy. Her mere appearance having revived his inspiration, it was not long before he found himself satisfied with the finished result and rising from his chair, he moved through the crowd towards her.

"I mean to point out that it's something of a mystery and the police should keep an open mind," he heard another gentleman remarked as he passed him. Catching sight of him, the speaker addressed him eagerly. "Ah, William! Favour us with your opinion. What do you make of this rash of disappearances sweeping through our town? Animals or thieves?"

William drew himself straight and proud. "I prefer not to think of such dark, ugly business at all," he replied. "That's what the police are for." He turned to Cecily. "I prefer placing my energies into creating things of beauty."

Another gentleman caught sight of the piece of paper in William's hands, and snatched it from him. "I see. Well, don't withhold, William."

The first gentleman nodded in agreement. "Rescue us from a dreary topic."

William hovered anxiously, not having wished for his offer of love to become known to the entire gathering. "Careful. The inks are still wet. Please, it's not finished."

"Don't be shy," the gentleman admonished before reading the poem aloud. " 'My heart expands, 'tis grown a bulge in it, inspired by your beauty, effulgent.'" he chuckled. "Effulgent?" he queried incredulously.

William frowned as everyone burst into laughter, whilst the intended recipient of his poem, walked away. Snatching his poem back, he followed her, trying ineffectually to block the insulting comments from his mind.

"And that's actually one of his better compositions," another gentleman remarked.

"Have you heard?" the first gentleman inquired. "They call him William the Bloody because of his bloody awful poetry!"

"It suits him," the reader of the poem remarked. "I'd rather have a railroad spike through my head than listen to that awful stuff!"


"That's why you were called William the Bloody!" Angel cried, unable to escape a chuckle himself.

Spike glared at his grandsire. "Look, mate, I only let you hear this because you promised you wouldn't laugh."

"I'm sorry," Angel apologised, sobering immediately, "you're right, I shouldn't be laughing. This must be a difficult tale for you to tell."

"You haven't heard the worse of it yet, mate," Spike replied.

He, Angel, and their respective girlfriends; Tara and Buffy, were sitting in the double height living room of the Mansion at 1902 Crawford Street. Tara had been present since dinner, having joined the three of them and Elita for that meal at her boyfriend's invitation. Since the former had retired for the night, still much traumatised by the discovery that she was the very thing Glory was searching for, conversation had drifted into the past lives of the two vampires, a subject which Buffy and Tara knew very little about. It was also something which Angel and Spike were silently agreed upon revealing, as a sign of the love they felt for the girls, and the level of trust they placed within them.

Now Spike unconsciously tightened his embrace around Tara, who like Buffy sat silently in her boyfriend's arms as they listened to the tales of their pasts. It had been a week since their short trip to Los Angeles and the Gateway for Lost Souls, in order to appeal to the Oracles to place a fix on his microchip, so he would not be affected by the music which the Initiative had installed the device as a trigger to let his demonic desire acquire a temporary freedom. Despite a vigorous examination of the closed circuit television of the Bronze where the event occurred, they had failed to discover the culprit behind this scheme, leaving them with the knowledge that such an event could occur again.

Whilst the possibility was known by the slayer and her watcher, few others of the slayerettes knew that the event had even taken place; Spike reluctant to tell them for fear of awaking their natural prejudice and justified mistrust against him once more, and Buffy because she felt they had enough to deal with concerning Glory, although encounters with that hell god had been extremely lacking of late, since Willow's teleportation spell.

"Anyway," Spike remarked now, "Back to the scene in question. Ignoring those arrogant, pricked up bastards, I followed Cecily to a sofa."


"Cecily?" William uttered, causing her to sigh as she turned and faced him.

"Oh. Leave me alone," she pleaded, her eyes caught at the amusement of the other guests in the room.

William brushed their comments aside. "Oh, they're vulgarians," he declared. "They're not like you and I."

"You and I?" Cecily echoed, suddenly seeing his attentions in a new and unexpected light. "I'm going to ask you a very personal question and I demand an honest answer. Do you understand?"

William nodded hopefully.

"Your poetry, it's... they're... not written about me, are they?" Cecily asked nervously.

"They're about how I feel," William confessed.

"Yes, but are they about me?" Cecily persisted.

"Every syllable," William confirmed.

"Oh, God!" Cecily cried, shocked.

"Oh, I know... it's sudden and..." William blushed, "please, if they're no good, they're only words but... the feeling behind them..." he gazed into her eyes, "I love you, Cecily."

"Please stop!" Cecily begged.

"I know I'm a bad poet," William admitted, "but I'm a good man and all I ask is that... that you try to see me-"

"I do see you," Cecily interrupted sadly. "That's the problem. You're nothing to me, William. You're beneath me."

With that, she rose from her seat and walked away, leaving William devastated and utterly alone in the middle of the soiree.


Overwhelmed by grief at the rejection of his first love, William staggered through the cobbled London streets in tears, destroying the written poetry authored by him as he went. Not paying attention to passers-by, he bumped into someone, the action causing his papers to drop to the pavement.

"Watch where you're going!" He sobbed, before gathering the ruined poems into his arms and turning into a nearby deserted alley.

He had been alone in his sorrow and destruction for some inestimable amount of time before he was disturbed by a luminous voice.

"And I wonder... what possible catastrophe came crashing down from heaven and brought this dashing stranger to tears?"

Not wishing to hear the laughter or rejection from yet another member of society, William denied his visible distress. "Nothing. I wish to be alone."

"Oh, I see you," the lady continued. "A man surrounded by fools who cannot see his strength, his vision, his glory. That and burning baby fish swimming all around your head."

William backed away from her, unnerved by her last strange comment. "That's quite close enough. I've heard tales of London pickpockets. You'll not be getting my purse, I tell you." He warned her.

The lady smiled. "Don't need a purse." She pointed to his heart. "Your wealth lies here... and here," she added, directing her slender finger to his head. "In the spirit and... imagination. You walk in worlds the others can't begin to imagine."

"Oh, yes!" William gasped, astonished to find someone who at last appeared to understand him. "I mean, no. I mean... mother's expecting me."

Shockingly, the lady opened his shirt, exposing his bare chest. "I see what you want. Something glowing and glistening. Something... effulgent."

"Effulgent," William echoed, hypnotised.

"Do you want it?" The lady asked him.

"Oh, yes!" William murmured, touching her bodice. "God, yes."

The lady's face glanced at the floor, as her appearance suddenly acquired hard forehead ridges and glistening white fangs within her mouth. Pulling back his shirt collar, she buried her teeth in his neck.

Surprised, William cried out in shock, only to realise the pleasure rousing within his body, even as it lost the liquid required for his survival.


"So you traded up on the food chain," Buffy remarked in the present day confines of the double height living room. "Then what?"

Despite himself, Spike groaned at her crude description. "No, please. Don't make it sound like something you'd flip past on the Discovery Channel. Becoming a vampire is a profound and powerful experience. I could feel this new strength coursing through me. Getting killed made me feel alive for the very first time. I was through living by society's rules. Decided to make a few of my own. Of course, in order to do that... I had to get myself a gang."

"Get yourself a gang?" Angel repeated. "If I remember correctly, Dru thrust you on to us, and we only agreed because it stopped Darla from becoming jealous concerning Angelus' attentions to her."

Spike shrugged. "Whatever. Anyway, our gang, moves us to Yorkshire a few months later, certain authorities in London having decided that they no longer desired our company."

"That and you were killing people like it was open season and they were an endangered species," Angel added.

His chipped grandchilde nodded in remembrance. "I did have quite the bloodlust," he confessed. "Anyway, you'll enjoy the next scene I'm about to recount, mate. You were doing something you often thirst after doing to me whenever I annoy you."


"Perhaps it's my advancing years that makes me so forgetful, William," Angelus mused as he held him suspended by the neck. "Remind me. Why don't we kill you?"

"...ike." William choked out, gagging, despite having now no need for oxygen, the grip his grandsire currently held on his neck was sapping his undead's blood flow.

"What's that?" Angelus asked as he released him in disgust.

"It's Spike now," William replied. "You'd do well to remember it, mate."

"I'm not your mate," Angelus corrected. "And when did you start talking like that?" He added directing to new harder, less educated accent Spike now possessed.

"Look, we barely got out of London alive because of you," Darla commented. "Everywhere we go, it's the same story and now-"

"You've got me and my women hiding in the luxury of a mine shaft," Angelus picked up the tale from his sire and lover, "all because William the Bloody likes the attention. This is not a reputation we need."

Spike took a swig from the wine bottle he carried, unaffected. "Oh, I'm sorry. Did I sully our good name? We're vampires."

"All the more reason to use a certain amount of finesse," Angelus argued.

"Bollocks!" Spike replied. "That stuff's for the frilly cuffs-and-collars crowd. I'll take a good brawl any day."

"And every time you do, we become the hunted," Angelus reminded him menacingly.

Darla smiled. "I think our boys are going to fight."

Druscilla giggled, clapping her hands with glee. "The King of Cups expects a picnic! But this is not his birthday."

"Good point..." Darla said, though her opinion of Druscilla was that Angelus had driven her into far too much insanity for a vampire to control.

"Yeah, you know what I prefer to being hunted?" Spike added, grinning. "Getting caught."

"That's a brilliant strategy, really," Angelus uttered sarcastically. "Pure cunning."

"Sod off!" Spike chuckled. "Come on. When was the last time you unleashed it? All out fight in a mob, back against the wall, nothing but fists and fangs? Don't you ever get tired of fights you know you're going to win?"

"No." Angelus replied. "A real kill. A good kill. It takes pure artistry. Without that, we're just animals."

Spike smirked. "Poofter!" He called out, causing Angelus to shove him away. The insulted vampire picked up a metal rod and snapped it in half, before lifting Spike up and slamming him down on his back, raising the makeshift stake before his chest. Spike gripped it moments before the weapon penetrated his clothes, grinning at Angelus.

"Now you're getting it!"

Disgusted at falling for Spike's scheme to get a rise out of him, Angelus tossed the rod aside as he walked. "You can't keep this up forever. If I can't teach you, maybe someday an angry crowd will. That... or the Slayer."

Spike rose up, suddenly curious. "What's a Slayer?"


"After that, I was obsessed," Spike confessed to his girlfriend, Buffy and Angel at the Mansion on Crawford Street. "I mean, to most vampires, the Slayer was the subject of cold sweat and frightened whispers. But I never hid. Hell, I sought her out. I mean, if you're looking for fun, there's death, there's glory and sod all else, right?" He shrugged. "I was young."

"So how'd you kill the first one then?" Buffy asked.

"Funny you should ask," Spike remarked, letting his face change, bringing his demon forth for all to see. "Lesson the first: a Slayer must always reach for her weapon. I've already got mine." He paused, shaking his head to contain the demon once more. "A good thing, too. Become a vampire, you've got nothing to fear. Nothing but one girl." He looked across the room to Buffy. "That's you, honey. Back then... circa 1900 in China, at the time of the Boxer Rebellion, it was her."


While the mob enthused chaos reigned outside, the Buddhist temple was hardly the place of sanctuary and enlightenment it usually possessed the reputation for. Two combatants ruled the floor; a vampire on the one side, and a small but adept native girl on the other. She held a sword, while he had yet to reveal his weapon.

She kicked him, whipping the steel blade at his head. He ducked, but now fast enough, the sharp implement striking the skin over his left eyebrow, causing blood to run down his face.

The wound did nothing to diminish Spike's enjoyment of the fight. He dodged another strike of her sword. "Just like I pictured it. This good for you?"

The girl chose to reply with a charge, waving her weapon through the air until it became a blur.

Spike was ready for the manoeuvre, avoiding every blow, before delivering a vicious backhand upon the slayer, breaking her grip on the sword.

Discarding her weapon, the girl when hand to hand with her foe, landing several kicks and punches to his head, but her successful strikes only served to encourage him. He returned the hits, losing ground until she had backed him against a column, pining him there against the marble, with a foot to his throat. She raised her stake, ready to strike the killing blow to her prey, only for an explosion to erupt outside, its power forcing the temple walls inward, the destruction breaking her hold on the vampire.

Seizing the offensive, Spike knocked the stake from her hand, forcing her to bend and retrieve the weapon, exposing herself. He grabbed her arm, wrenching behind her to press against the skin covering her spine, before pulling her neck towards him, as he sank his fangs deep into her flesh.
Turning the girl towards him, she murmured some incomprehensible plea which the vampire would never think of obeying.

"I'm sorry, love, I don't speak Chinese," Spike remarked, before tossing the body to the ground. "A fella could get used to this," he mused.

"Oh, Spike, look at the wonderful mess you've made," Druscilla mused as she wandered into the temple. She glanced at the dead girl, even in her insanity recognising who she was and what her death meant. "That's a Slayer you've done in. Naughty... wicked... Spike."

Her words were hardly delivered in an admonishing tone. She held out her hand and Spike approached her, taking her in his arms. "You ever hear them saying the blood of a Slayer is a powerful aphrodisiac?" He asked rhetorically. Holding his bloodstained finger up to her mouth, he urged her to join him in his pleasure. "Here, now... have a taste."

Druscilla's mouth closed around his finger, moaning with pleasure. He grinned before lifting her against a stable wall, kissing her lustfully. She pulled at his clothes as they sank on to the floor, giving into their desires.


While the slayer and her companions were listening to Spike's tales of his misspent youth, across town an intern exited the hospital he trained in, only to encounter one of the sources of his present frustration, lurking outside in the carpark.

"Tell my sister I'm sick of running into her Jawa rejects," Ben remarked angrily.

"She ... bade me come to you," Jinx replied, ever the subservient lackey. "The news of your relationship with the Slayer-"

"We don't have a relationship," Ben corrected.

"But ... you attempted to court her, did you not?" Jinx sought to confirm.

"No," Ben replied. "You're more fun when I hit you."

"It's just, Glory ..." Jinx paused, searching for the most tactful way of phrasing the god's request. "Would like to encourage this interest of yours in the Slayer. It might lead to more information about the key."

"And why would I share that with the most unstable one?" Ben asked him.

"Time ... is running short, sir," Jinx reminded him. "Every moment you fight Glory, you're only fighting yourself, you see?"

"Fine," Ben replied. "Let the best me win. Let Glory understand this: I won't help her find the key," he vowed. "I would never do that to an innocent-" suddenly he broke off as he realised what he had begun to let slip.

Unfortunately for him, Jinx was a smart lackey. "An innocent?" He mused curiously. "The key? That's an interesting choice of words."

Hurriedly, Ben tried to cover up his slip. "No, that, that's not what I-"

Jinx cut him off, eager to take what he had learned to his mistress. "I understand, sir. I'm sorry to have bothered you, I'll ... take my leave."

Ben blocked his exit attempt. "You understand what? When I said it's innocent, I didn't mean that the key is ... it's not a person."

His attempts at a double bluff were in vain. "Of course not," Jinx replied, now more certain than ever of the power of what he had just learned.

Just as Ben was certain of something too "You're gonna run and tell her, aren't you?" He realised. "Do you understand what's going to happen if she finds the key? How many people are going to die?"

"Please, I heard nothing," Jinx pleaded, suddenly scared of his mistress' brother.

"I can't let that happen," Ben vowed, removing a dragger from the lackey's belt. "Don't you see?" he added, thrusting the knife into Jinx. "I can't."

Jinx fell to ground, mortally wounded. Ben glanced about himself at the thankfully deserted carpark, before walking into the hospital to clean himself off.


Spike and Druscilla joined a silent and thoughtful Darla and Angelus as they walked arm in arm through the violence of the Boxer Rebellion, their faces grinning as they whispered to each other joyfully.

"So where have you two been?" Darla asked them.

Druscilla looked to her lover. "May I tell?"

"No need to be humble," Spike replied.

"My little Spike just killed himself a Slayer," Druscilla revealed.

Angelus looked at him solemnly, his face serious and grim. "Congratulations. I guess that makes you one of us."

"Don't be so glum, mate!" Spike remarked. "The way you tell it, one Slayer snuffs it, another one rises. I figure there's a new Chosen One getting all chosen as we speak. I tell you what... when and if this new bird does show up, I'll give you first crack at her."

His grandsire frowned at the prospect, but Spike's attention was soon caught by his lover, whom sighed in pleasure. "I smell fear."

"Yeah, this whole place reeks of it," Angelus agreed.

Druscilla swooned into Spike's arms. "It's intoxicating!"

Angelus took Darla's arm. "Let's get out of here," he proposed. "This rebellion's starting to bore me."

Spike kissed his love, before following the other duo into the night.

 




"That was the best night of my life," Spike mused, until he caught Tara's glance. "Until you and, that is, luv," he assured her, kissing her lips.

"Glad one of us enjoyed it," Angel remarked, "that was one of my worst."

"Oh, yeah," Spike uttered, "I forgot you had your soul then, didn't ya? Darla was half ready to throw you out because you'd only drain the blood of criminals and rats."

"I didn't realise," Tara uttered softly, looking at Angel. "How did you feel hearing he had killed a slayer?"

"I didn't know what to feel," Angel confessed, catching his beloved's gaze as she glanced at him. "I was still trying so hard to win back Darla. I knew if she realised the true depth of remorse and disgust I felt for myself and my kind at that moment, she would cut herself off from me, leaving me to a solitarily existence, something I could not yet face. Although I was soon was to do so anyway."

Spike shrugged, gesturing at himself, then his grandsire. "From one extreme to the other," he said, his smile transforming into a grimace. "I don't know what I feel about that night now," he confessed. "Then, my feelings were obvious."

"You got off on it," Buffy observed.

"Well, yeah," Spike replied. "I suppose you're telling me you don't?" He laughed as she blushed. "How many of my kind reckon you've done?"

"Not enough," Buffy replied.

Spike nodded. "And we just keep coming. But you can kill a hundred, a thousand, a thousand thousand and the enemies of Hell besides and all we need is for one of us- just one- sooner or later to have the thing we're all hoping for."

"And that would be what?" Buffy asked.

"One... good... day," Spike answered, drawing out the words for dramatic effect. "The problem with you, Summers, is you've gotten so good, you're starting to think you're immortal."

Buffy shook her head. "Not really, I just know I can handle myself," she replied. "At least, I thought I did. Until Glory."

"Second lesson," Spike uttered. "Ask the right questions. You want to know how I beat them? The question isn't how'd I win, the question is, why'd they lose."

"What's the difference?" Buffy asked.

"There's a big difference, luv," Spike replied.

"So how did you kill the second one?" Angel asked.

"Ah, she was feisty," Spike replied. "My tale starts in 1977, in the city of New York. Deep in the barrels of the city's subway, in a deserted tube carriage. You see, the first was all business but the second, she had a touch of your style. She was cunning, resourceful... oh, did I mention? Hot. I could have danced all night with that one.

"And the thing about the dance is, you never get to stop. Every day you wake up, it's the same bloody question that haunts you: is today the day I die? Death is on your heels, baby, and sooner or later it's gonna catch you. And part of you wants it... not only to stop the fear and uncertainty, but because you're just a little bit in love with it."

Buffy frowned. "I'm not in love with it," she objected.

"Maybe," Spike allowed. "But death is your art. You make it with your hands, day after day. That final gasp. That look of peace. Part of you is desperate to know: What's it like? Where does it lead you? And now you see, that's the secret. Not the punch you didn't throw or the kicks you didn't land. Every Slayer has a death wish. Even you.

"The only reason you've lasted as long as you have is you've got ties to the world... your mum, the key, my grandsire, the Scoobies. They all tie you here but you're just putting off the inevitable. Sooner or later, you're gonna want it. And the second- the second- that happens, you know one of our kind will be there. We'll lip in... have ourselves a real good day." He grimaced. "Here endeth the lesson."

"But what about the fight?" Angel asked, pulling his beloved into his arms as she inwardly shivered from the chill Spike's words produced.

"You sound almost like your old self, mate," Spike commented. "Sorry, luv," he added, to both Buffy and Tara. "Didn't mean to sound so full of the bloodlust. Back to that fight."

 



Seventy-seven years had passed, taking their toll on the world and slayers, but not on the vampire who fought his second now. Spike was transformed from the monster his first chosen one witnessed, his dark hair bleached white, while his clothes set the style Billy Idol would soon steal for himself. He grinned at the woman who faced in the deserted tube carriage, as his punch sent her to the floor, causing her to roll in order to regain her stance.

Trading blows, the slayer, an African-American woman, older and taller than her present successor, threw the vampire headfirst into a window, smashing the glass. To her surprise the foe cried from delight before attacking her again.

He wrenched a hand rail from the train, swinging it about him like a quarter staff. Swiftly, he dealt a blow to her face, sending her to the floor where he continued to pound the metal into her.

The slayer caught the weapon suddenly, inches from her body. Jerking her arms, she sent it back into his face. The vampire fell to the ground, and she leapt onto his chest. Straddling him, she punched his face continuously, as the lights in the rail car began to flicker and fail.

When they returned to save the carriage from damage, they discovered that the vampire had used the darkness to his advantage, switching positions with the slayer, now straddling her midsection. He grabbed her head and twisted it, breaking her neck. Rising from the body, he retrieved the leather coat as a souvenir, before pulling on the stop cord and disembarking into the depths of the tunnel.


Further along the affluent suburbs of the hellmouth, a god walked the length of her apartment, minions following behind, all in the deepest concern.

"Where is he?" Glory asked them. "He should have been back hours ago."

"I'm sure Jinx is on his way, your ... new and improvedness," one of the lackey's assured her. "He's most loyal to-"

"Hey! He better be loyal." Glory cried.

Suddenly the door to her apartment opened, and two minions conveyed the missing lackey within their arms inside the room, causing the god and followers to halt.

"Jinxie?" Glory cried in confusion, before rushing forward to take one of his arms, placing around her shoulders. She waited for the relieved lackey to close the door, then returned the barely conscious one to his care.

"Oh, no, no!" she cried as they sought to place him on the floor. "Oh, mind the rug, honeys, blood's a bitch. Was this the Slayer, I'll pull her wings off!"

"No," Jinx replied as he sank gratefully on to the sofa. "It was Ben."

"Ben?" Glory echoed in shock. "Ben? Oh god, you pointless, stupid lout! Oh, I hate you, I hate you, I hate youuuuu!" She pulled at her hair, the blond strands coming free of her scalp.

"The key!" Jinx cried. "He told me."

"The key?" Glory repeated. "What about the key?"

"He indicated that it was a person, most ...... highest ... you," Jinx replied.

Glory smiled hopefully. "The key's in human form?"

"I believe so ...good one," Jinx confirmed.

"Ahh!" Glory cried, sitting next to him. She pulled him into a hug. "Jinx, you robed stud, you're my man! I'm even gonna let you slide on the lame toadying on account of your dying and stuff."

Jinx frowned as the god rose to her feet.

"So, the key's all secreted away in a flesh wrapper!" Glory mused as she began to pace. "This narrows the search from now on in a serious way, I mean we didn't have a clue. It could have been a log, or, or a bicycle pump, or whatever, am I right?"

She glanced at her lackey, who had now succumbed to unconsciousness. "Uch, get him fixed, would ya?" She order her other minions, before falling on to the sofa. "I wanna hear the whole story again, without all that annoying moaning."

 


"Spike was right."

"What?" Angel looked up at his girlfriend. "Are you serious?"

Buffy nodded as she slowly undressed for bed. I have become arrogant concerning my abilities as the slayer."

"I don't believe he used that word," Angel disputed. "You're not arrogant when you fight."

"Immortal, arrogant, its the same thing," Buffy argued. "I do go into every fight believing I will win." She pulled on her night shirt, one of his which she liberated when shortly after he became a professor of Art History. "When was the last time I faced a vampire close to your age or older? Not since before Adam. And Dracula doesn't count, as he can pull his ashes back together. The young ones I haven't fought since Glory appeared on the scene because they all wisely decided to run for the hills. She is the first enemy in a while that I haven't defeated in one fight. But I still go on patrol assuming that if I face a vampire I will win."

"How else can you win?" Angel asked her, coming to stand before her. "Buffy, you can't afford to think that we will lose else the fear will have the power to overwhelm you and Spike will be right about them needing only one good day."

"But I can't afford to think that I will win every time," Buffy replied. "Glory has taught me that. After all, I still don't know how I will defeat her."

"You will," Angel assured her, taking her hands in his to emphasise his point. "We will find something which will prove to be her Achilles heel."

"From where?" Buffy countered. "We've tried every known avenue. How can you think like that?"

"I have to," Angel uttered softly. "I don't what I would do if I lost you. I can't even bear to think about it."

He pulled her into his arms, and Buffy sighed, relenting on pushing the point. Angel was right too; she could not bear the idea of losing him either. But she was a slayer, and somehow tonight, she could not help feeling that her death in that cause would be inevitable.


"I didn't frighten you off, did I, luv?" Spike asked Tara, later when they were in the privacy of his bedroom on the top floor of the mansion on Crawford Street.

"Alittle," Tara confessed as his hands slid from her shoulders to clasp her elbows. "But it's your past, and I know you feel differently now."

"I do," Spike swore, "I've changed a lot since then. If we were to run across another Toth, and he split me and my demon in two, he wouldn't even recognise me. The vamp would be revolted too," he added, thoughtfully. "Though not as much as if he encountered my old self, before I was changed." Shaking the hypothetical eventuality from his mind, he looked up into Tara's eyes. "Luv, I'm sorry if this frightens you. I never meant to hurt you by telling you about my past. I'm different person now, I swear."

"I know you are," Tara replied, gazing into his eyes, "Spike, I love the man I see before me now. Just like Buffy loves Angel. And I take my cue from her. She loves him despite all the horrors his demon committed, because she knows that he is greater than the sum of his past. Just as I know you are too."

Touched, Spike leaned inward, kissing her devoutly. "You don't know how much that means to me to hear you say that," he whispered, bringing her arms around his waist before letting go of them to cup the edge of her cheeks, one finger twirling a strand of hair around his skin. "I still marvel at how much I've changed since then," he added.

"I love you," Tara repeated, before his lips sank on to hers. She pressed her hands against the back of his shirt, pulling him close to her as she returned the kiss.

Spike's hands travelled into her hair, before suddenly sweeping her into his arms to deposit her on to the bed, where they continued to dance the dance.

The End.
To Be Continued In

Enlightenment.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: This is a rewrite of Intervention, with dialogue taken from the original episode, and changes to fit with my canon of events. I have tried to keep how this season will end as mysterious as possible, but I can imagine that some of you have guessed what I have in mind regarding Elita and Buffy. Enjoy.

Enlightenment.

Ever since she had discovered the exact nature of her origins, Elita found herself regressing in maturity. At every turn she had rebelled against her greatest enemy; Glory, against her closest allies; Buffy and the other slayerettes, becoming the embodiment of a typical teenager. The hardest battle, she realised all the while fighting them, lay within herself; struggling to accept the evidence which damned her to her a fearfully uncertain future, either one determined by her actions alone, or more likely, in the power of Glory.

For weeks she refused to accept the truth, as if her resistance protected her self-determination, her free will to affect her own future fate. Only now she accepted such resistance as futile. This was no dream which she would wake from with memories of her past, her family, her friends. She had no knowledge of them because they had never existed.

Before these months in Sunnydale she was a ball of energy, no fixed form, no thoughts, no awareness. Just an existence, fully dependent on and determined by others. A monastery of monks her parents, who made her flesh in or to protect her, not anticipating that the god they were hiding her from would follow her to Sunnydale.

With this acceptance came many questions, one of which always lay at the forefront of her mind; what would happen to her after Glory was either defeated or victorious. Would she be returned to her previous form of existence or would she remain as she was, a human being. Humanity, as she understood from Angel and Spike, was a sacred thing, something which was earned, not given away to any one who asked for it.

Such a state was also what Glory had been exiled into, and the form for the vampire slayer, werewolves, witches, and vampires who lived within the world. In short, humanity was a mass of contradictions, equally confusing for those who were given life in the natural way, as well as herself.

Ultimately, it was a step in evolution, a plane of existence, a link in a natural chain which one did not suddenly create, nor skip a few stages. She could not go from energy to humanity without consequences, of that much she was certain. There would be a price to pay for her unnatural existence, whatever happened to Glory.

Awareness, knowledge, enlightenment. These were all the same things to Elita, they held the same meanings for her. It was through them she gained understanding of her origins, acceptance of her uncertain end. She had reached this conclusion earlier than most mortals, another piece of evidence pertaining to her difference from them.

Few humans, she discovered, ever realised these ideals which they strove to attain all their lives. Their existence was a constant journey of discovery, to find what was missing; the inalienable truths of life. She had found these out, but with one difference. She still felt empty and unfulfilled. She still felt that she had no place in this world. And she wondered if this was a sign as to the nature of her eventual, inevitable, end.


"He's getting stronger," the voice murmured, its tone wistful, despairing. "I'm losing him," the owner of the dulcet tones realised. "I'm losing control of him."

The recently healed Jinx, defacto head of lackeys, dwarflike monks sworn to serve their mistress until death, now looked up at his, oh so divine, so beautiful deity, she that is Glorificus.

"You're speaking of Ben, most glamorous yet tasteful one?" He hazard astutely.

"He stabbed you in your body," Glory replied, as if that proved her point of her current resigned judgement concerning her dual existence.

"Jinx is all right, your highness," another one of the dwarflike monks assured her humbly. "And we do have the new knowledge that the key is a human being."

Glory sighed as she rose from her sofa to pace the floor; a manner which she thought would help calm her agitated mind, but which in fact only increased the tension within herself. "If time runs out on us and all we're left with is info? Then we're screwed."

"Oh, surely not!" Jinx cried, almost terrified at the mere thought of it.

"No, we're screwed!" Glory asserted, returning to her sofa.

"But you are a god," the lackey reminded her incredulous at the idea that his mistress did not possess infinite knowledge. "The sacred Glorificus!"

"I'm a god in exile," Glory corrected. "Far from the hell fires of home and ... sharing my body with an enemy that stabs my boys in their fleshy little stomachs." she clutched her head as if the pain which Jinx now felt in his recently healed flesh, was mysteriously transplanted into her own. "Ugh! I'm in pain."

"How can we help?" Jinx asked, for her pain was always greater in comparison to his own. "We'll lay down our lives," he vowed.

Glory frowned thoughtfully, then rose from the sofa once more. "The Slayer and the key are connected," she concluded. "She's going to have contact with it. Find out who's new in her life, who's ... special, who's different. Watch her."

"We can do that, O ... thou," the dwarflike monk and lackey had run out of accolades worthy of addressing the deity he served by.

"I want to hear about everyone she has contact with!" Glory cried. "That girl has my key and I'm trusting you boys to get it for me." Her last plea, was always that of gods who realise the power they have over those who serve them unquestioning. "If you love me get it for me."

The dwarflike monks smiled happily at their god's great plan, prostrating their bodies before her, then rising from the floor of the apartment to be about her quest for awareness, knowledge, enlightenment.


"She's getting stronger, Giles," Buffy remarked to her watcher that morning after Mythology class.

Preoccupied with filing away the latest assignments into his briefcase, Giles looked up in brief confusion. "Who?"

The slayer glanced around the room at the last remnants of students, making sure all were out of hearing distance before she replied. "Glory."

"But we haven't seen her since Willow's spell," Giles reminded her in a lowered tone, mindful of his still exiting class.

"That's my point," Buffy continued, matching his tone. "She's a god, she must be better by now."

"A god trapped in the confines of a mortal body," Giles reminded her. "Exiled from her dimension, and sustained only by feeding on human brain."

"I know, that's why I checked the hospital ward this morning," Buffy replied. "Admittance is on the rise again in the mental ward."

"Oh," Giles inhaled feelingly. "What do you want to do?"

"I need to step up my training," Buffy replied.

"Buffy, I hate to put a damper on your enthusiasm in that area," Giles began, "but anymore physical workouts, and I'll have to start cancelling my lecture courses."

"I don't mean the physical side of things," Buffy replied, "I mean the spiritual things, the mental things."

"Such as?" Giles asked her, curiously.

"You know I've been taking the slayer diaries home recently," Buffy continued. "I read in one of them about a quest for enlightenment."

"That quest?" Giles queried, thoughtfully, receiving a silent nod in reply. "It would mean some time away from the hellmouth. And Elita."

"We could take her with us," Buffy proposed.

"Yes, that would best," Giles agreed. "If you're sure."

"Will it give me answers?" Buffy asked him.

Giles met her gaze. "They might not be the answers you wish for," he warned her.

"Better than no answers at all," Buffy replied. "I'll meet you at the mansion after college," she added, before exiting the lecture hall.


"I don't know, luv," Spike remarked from his place on the sofa, watching as the slayer wandered around the double height living room, packing supplies into her rucksack. "A quest in the middle of the desert sounds like a euphemism for something kinky."

"I'm not asking for your blessing, Spike," Buffy snapped. "I'm asking if you and Angel can look after things for a couple of days."

"And we can," Angel assured her, rising from his seat to stand before her, halting her concerned pacing about the lounge. "Don't worry, honey," he added softly, taking her hand. "You'll have her with you, after all."

"I know," Buffy sighed, clasping his hand in return. "Promise you will all take care of yourselves, okay?"

"We will, pet," Spike replied, seriously. "Glory won't touch any of us. Not if we can help it."

There was a knock on the door, just as Elita ran down the final flight of stairs into the room. "I'll get it."

Angel clutched her face, his dark eyes gazing into her own. "I love you," he uttered softly.

"I love you too," Buffy replied, kissing him briefly before heading to the door.

Her boyfriend and houseguest followed herself and Elita outside to deliver a final farewell to the girls and Giles, before they climbed into the latter's vehicle. Silently they watched him reversed out of the Mansion driveway and down the road to the hellmouth limits, before returning to the house to prepare for the night's patrol of Sunnydale.

In the darkness, they were followed by dwarflike creatures.


"This isn't gonna turn out to be a surprise stash the key away in a secret hideout in the desert trip is it?" Elita asked as Giles' car turned off the highway.

"You've been watching too many X Files," Buffy remarked.

"Don't you trust Angel and Spike and the others to protect me?" Elita persisted.

"I trust them with your life," Buffy replied, turning from the window to look at the young girl. "And with mine. But I was asked to protect you, not them. I can't leave you in the hellmouth while I'll go on quest which may or may not turn out to be a waste of time."

"I'm sorry I've been off, lately," Elita apologised. "To be honest, I don't really remember much of my life before you rescued me from Harmony and her minions."

"You don't?" Buffy queried, surprised.

"I don't think I had one," Elita added. "Then when I found out about being the key, I realised I didn't belong here at all. And that terrified me."

"I think I can understand that," Buffy rejoined. "When I was first called, I felt incredibly alone. I constantly rebelled against being the slayer. I thought if I accept my destiny, even for a moment, I would lose myself. I'd become this other person, someone who I didn't know. I was freaked."

"Well, just imagine if you can't remember your life before this," Elita said. "That's what I've been feeling ever since I learned who I really was." She paused, suddenly looking worried. "Buffy, say you defeat Glory, what will happen to me?"

"I don't know," Buffy replied, surprised the thought had not occurred to her before. "Perhaps you will revert to what it was before you were human."

"A ball of luminous energy," Elita murmured. "Or at least that's what I read from Giles' notes. But what if I don't?"

"What do you mean?" Buffy asked.

"The monks who made me human all died, right?" Elita sought to confirm, waiting for Buffy to nod before she added, "and Glory said she was so close to them, before I disappeared, that she killed them all. What if they didn't have time to give me the power to revert? What if I'm human forever? What will I do then?"

"We're here," Giles announced, before the slayer had time to answer. He brought the vehicle to a stop so they could exit.

Buffy did not know how to answer Elita's question, so she was grateful that they had arrived at their destination. Silently she took in her surroundings as they climbed out of the car on to the thousand grains of compacted sand. From every view point the desert lay before them, ready to be crossed. No lights from the nearby villages, towns, cities, even the highway could be seen, leaving the land visible only as a result of the sunlight, which was soon to fade into the darkness of the night.

No man's land, Buffy thought to herself, unable to prevent an inward shiver from taking hold of her. From the few slayers who had written about the quest, she had drawn mysterious, yet attractive feelings, above all, a belief that finally she would receive all the answers she needed concerning Elita, and how to defeat Glory. Now, as she stared at this desolate landscape stretched out before her, she wondered if that would be true.

Well, there was only one way to find out, she resolved. Shaking her concerns away, she joined Elita and her watcher by the rear of the convertible.

"What's in the trunk?" She asked.

"Supplies," Giles replied simply.

"Supplies?" Elita echoed.

Buffy nodded in understanding. "I was wondering about that," she confessed. "Like, food, water, maybe a compass?"

Giles straightened up. "What about a book, a gourd, and a bunch of twigs?" He countered.

"I don't think I'll be that hungry," Buffy quipped.

"They're for me," Giles informed them. "Come on, this way," he added, leading them into the sands.

"So, how far from civilisation do we need to be?" Elita asked, gazing around at the seemingly endless desolate landscape which surrounded them.

"Oh, we're only two hours from the hellmouth," Giles informed them.

"So what do the book, gourd and bunch of twigs make when you put them together?" Buffy asked. "Do you have a 'here's one I prepared earlier?'"

"The location of the sacred place where the quest is contained, is a guarded secret, I can't take you there myself," Giles revealed. "I'll have to perform a ritual to transfer my guardianship of you, temporarily, to, to a guide." He came to halt as he took in their current surroundings.

"This'll do," he decided, before he began to prepare for the ritual.

"A guide but no food or water," Elita remarked. "So it leads Buffy to the sacred place, and then a week later it leads you to her bleached bones?"

"Elita, please," Giles returned, mildly exasperated at her ignorance. "It takes more than a week to bleach bones."

"Like that's any comfort," Elita murmured.

"So, how's it start?" Buffy asked Giles as he finished laying the twigs of wood in a circle around himself.

Her watcher looked faintly embarrassed. "I, uh, jump out of the circle and then jump back in it, and then, um ... I shake my gourd."

Buffy smiled. "I know this ritual! The ancient shamans were next called upon to do the hokey-pokey and turn themselves around."

Giles frowned at the girls as Elita chuckled. "Go quest."

Buffy smiled, then began to walk away, leaving Elita along with her watcher. The girl watched, amused as Giles jumped into the circle twigs, leapt back out, then shook the gourd.

"And that's what it's all about," Elita quipped. "Giles, do you think this would work for me?" She asked.

"Elita, you're not a slayer," Giles reminded her.

"I know," the young girl replied. "What I mean is, do you have a similar ritual which could work for me? I need enlightenment just as much as Buffy does."

The watcher fell into silence and inactivity as he pondered the possibility. "The required wording is fairly non-specific," he concluded. "If you wish to, it could be possible that this would work for you as well as Buffy."

"Could I do it now?" Elita asked. "Or do I need to wait for her to return?"

"I see no reason for not running them in unison," Giles replied. "Go."

"Thank you," Elita replied before walking away.


"So Buffy left you in charge?" Anya queried as she returned an item to a shelf in the Magic Box Shop.

"Well, me and Angel," Spike replied. "Patrolling with my sire, it's almost like old times. Glad Dru or Darla aren't here, then I'd be really freaked out."

"Does that mean I get overtime?" Anya asked hopefully.

Her boss frowned. "What's the sudden concern with your wages?" He asked. "I pay you enough as it is."

"Not enough to cover college and rent," Anya replied. "Or utilities."

"I thought you were spending most of your time with Xander?" Spike sought to confirm. "Why don't you move in with him?"

"Because moving in with someone is a deep commitment," Anya replied. "I'm not sure Xander's ready for that."

"He was ready to buy the Bronze to help Cordelia get into college," Spike returned. "And he brought the apartment because you loved the place."

"True," Anya agreed, remembering. "Isn't he supposed to ask me though?"

"You're a working twenty-first century woman, Anya," Spike pointed out. "You can ask him."

"Alright," the vengeance demon agreed. "I will." She tossed Spike the keys to the shop, grabbed her purse and coat, and headed past him, hitting the door before he realised her intentions.

"Don't worry," he called out sarcastically to the swinging door, "I'll finish your shift. Former vengeance demons," he muttered, walking to the till area, "can't employ them without them driving you insane."

Outside a cloaked lackey watched him feverishly, searching for the one moment which might reveal him to be a key.


In the desert, the slayer wandered across the sand, waiting for a sign which would mean the quest had begun. She could hear the faint echo of Giles' voice, chanting a language she could not identify; the words akin to the ancient chants of Native Americans, invoking the holy ones. The echo was vaguely hypnotic; yet strangely calming. Somehow the sound drifted through the landscape around her, moving out to the places beyond her vision, as though it was just as much a part of this world as the nature before her.

Suddenly she heard a growling noise, deep and guttural, causing her to halt. Turning to her left, she saw a mountain lion sitting on the sand, his dark brown eyes staring back at her, as if he had been awaiting her arrival.

"Hello, kitty," Buffy uttered in greeting, keeping her tone nonthreatening as not to disturb the animal into running or attacking.

As though he understood her, the creature rose from the ground, walking away, his tail flicking back and forth, as if a silent request to follow.

Buffy obeyed. She trailed the lion through the sands, until they walked through a small rock ridged path, entering in a clearing of low land-lying bushes and flint.

"I know this place," she murmured, remembering from almost a year ago, when the first slayer haunted her dreams.

Silently, she sat down on a large rock, and waited for her guide to arrive, trying to clear her mind of stray thoughts concerning her friends and soulmate, her family, her life. All but the questions she needed answering, eliminating the endless speculation within her mind, which so far had brought no result. Nothing should cloud her judgement now, not one part of her mind which had the power to influence her thoughts concerning the answers she would receive.

Only a hope remained. That the answer she was to soon receive, would solve her present puzzlement over Glory and Elita. That it would give her the key to defeating the one, whilst saving the other.

Even if it was not the answer she might have wished for.


"Willow," a student called out, making the red head turn round in the midst of exiting the lecture hall building.

"Micah," she returned. "What's up?"

"Can I borrow your notes?" He asked. "I typed mine up last night, but my laptop crashed, and I threw the originals away."

"Sure," Willow replied, retrieving her notebook from her bag. "It's got last week's notes too. Just get it back to me by Thursday."

"Of course," Micah promised.

"And, uh, don't write in it or, or, uh, put a coffee mug down on it, or anything," Willow added. "And, and, just don't spill. Okay. Oh, oh, and don't fold the page corners down."

"They'll be pristine," he promised her. "See ya tomorrow."

"You too," Willow returned. She reached the decorative pillars of the building, smiling at her boyfriend as Oz emerged from behind one to walk her back to their shared flat with Cordelia.

From behind another pillar, another lackey emerged, trailing the couple, waiting for a sign that one of these were who they were searching for.


Elita wondered the desert in the opposite direction to the slayer, but possessing the same hope within her mind. Like Buffy she could hear the words of Giles' chanting, echoing across the desert plains, rumbling in harmony with the sounds of the nature surrounding her. The echo was equally vaguely hypnotic to her, calming too. Already she felt more hopeful concerning the uncertainty of her future, in comparison to the pessimism which had haunted her previously.

Suddenly she heard a growling, the noise deep and guttural, causing her to halt mid-step. Turning, she saw a bear, the living symbol which blazoned the Californian flag, staring at her, standing no more than a few yards away.

"Hello," she uttered, taking care to keep her tone soft and nonthreatening. "If you are the sign which was foretold to me, lead the way to the place where my quest will begin."

As if the animal understood her, the bear turned eastward, walking away from the setting sun, delivering a final brief glance over his shoulder, a clear indication to follow.

Elita obeyed, placing her feet in his large footprints, tailing his powerful form as he led her through the desert, until they crossed a path lined with rocks, leading to a clearing of low land-lying bushes and flint.

The bear sat down, his manner conveying to her a silent command to copy. She obeyed, taking a perch on one of the larger pieces of flint.

Watching the creature, Elita saw his pupils drift from her to the sands between them, another silent request. Again she obeyed, fixing her gaze upon the compacted sand, clearing her mind of all her endless speculation concerning her life and her fate, focusing only on the questions she desired to be answered. She ignored her natural curiosity concerning what the slayer was facing, whether it bore any comparison to the scene before herself.

If she had been able to turn round, possess a vision powerful enough to travel the distance between them, she would have seen the young woman known as the slayer awake from the slight doze she had slipped into, waiting for her ancestor to appear. She would have seen her wake to a sudden sound, to find a fire burning before her.

And the primitive waiting her first question.

 


"I know you're in charge of patrolling while Buffy's away, so do you think you could stay away from here?" Xander asked.

"Why?" Angel queried as the slayerettes sought their usual seating area in the Bronze, away from the crowded dancefloor.

"Because the last time everyone was in here the club got trashed by a robot," Xander reminded him. "And before that, a giant troll."

"We didn't build the robot," Angel protested.

"That troll weren't our fault, either, mate," Spike pointed out, "it was an ex' of your girlfriend's."

"Which brings me to my next rant," Xander added. "You told her to ask me to move in with me?"

"That I did," Spike grinned. "Just consider it my good deed for the year."

"Thanks so much," Xander rejoined sarcastically.

"My pleasure," Spike looked at him with a frown. "I thought you wanted her to move in with you."

"I do," Xander confessed. "But after this was over. I hadn't planned on asking until Glory was destroyed."

"You can't put things on hold until then," Angel remarked. "Glory's a god, remember? Some of us might not survive the future."

"You and Spike will," Xander argued. "You're not human like the rest of us, susceptible to wounds and such."

"We not entirely immortal," Angel disagreed quietly as Spike shook his head in accordance. "We can be still be killed just as easily you."

"Gentlemen!" A voice cried, causing them to turn round, as the doors of the nightclub opened to reveal a contingent of robed dwarflike monastic demons. "I'm so sorry to intrude, but I wondered if I might beg a moment of your time?"

"Oh great," Xander groaned. "Er, people, the Bronze is closing, unexpectedly early," he shouted as the music abruptly stopped due to the fearsome sight of the new arrivals. Scared, the clubbers turned to the manger and owner, who continued to give them guidance they needed. "Please leave by the backstage exits, preferably without wrecking the place."

"Friends of yours?" Spike asked him.

The demon who had begun proceedings most courteously, now punched the owner of the nightclub in the stomach, causing the rest of the slayerettes to rush from the crowd of exiting people to where the inevitable battle was about to commence.

"Guess not," Spike remarked before launching himself into the fight.

Despite there being as many slayerettes as there were demons, the latter were more powerful than their small size conveyed, causing the gang to slowly fall back towards the exits, deciding that retreat to live for tomorrow was the better part of valour.

Then suddenly the demons seized one of them, and everything changed.

"Tie his hands!" One demon ordered. "Glory will want him restrained."

"Let me go!" Spike cried as he struggled to break free.

"Spike," Tara cried in concern.

"Careful with him," the demon advised. "She will want the key intact."

"Key? Who's a key? I'm not the-" Spike's yells were muffled as one of the demons stuffed a cloth into his mouth.

Angel, having been felled by one of the demons, rose from his feet in time to see said monastic robed villains dragging his grandchilde out of the nightclub.

He cast a glance at the rest of the Scooby gang, struggling to rise from the floor, groaning and grunting from injuries received.

"We need Buffy," he realised, wondering how she faring in her own battle.


"I know you," his soulmate spoke two hours away, to her companion by the fire. "You're the first Slayer."

"This is a form," the primitive replied. "I am the guide."

"I have a few questions about being the Slayer," Buffy began nervously. "Will you answer them?"

"That is what I am here for," the first slayer replied.

"My current foe is a hell god," Buffy said. "How do I defeat her?"

"I cannot foresee the future," her ancestor replied. "That is dependent on your will, free and unmanageable from outside powers."

"Okay," Buffy murmured, realising this was going to be harder than she thought. "What about the sacrifice the god demands. Should evil be granted that gift?"

"You think because you can imagine giving up the key, that you're losing the ability to care for humanity," the first slayer remarked. "You're afraid that being the Slayer means losing your humanity."

"Does it?" Buffy asked.

"You are full of love," the primitive replied. "Which is the essence of humanity. You love with all of your soul. It is brighter than the fire, blinding and overwhelming. That's why you pull away from it."

"I'm full of love?" Buffy queried, confused. "Why do I pull away from it? How is that an answer?"

"Emotions are what make you human," the primitive replied. "Love is pain, and the Slayer forges strength from pain. Love, give, forgive. Risk the pain. It is your nature. Love will bring you to your gift."

"What? Love will lead me to my gift?" Buffy sought to confirm.

"Yes," her ancestor replied.

"I'm getting a gift?" Buffy tried. "Or, or do you mean that, that I have a gift to give to someone else?"

"Death is your gift," the first slayer uttered.

"Death ..." Buffy echoed.

"Is your gift," her ancestor repeated.

"Okay, no," Buffy objected. "Death is not a gift. I know this. If I have to kill demons because it makes the world a better place, then I kill demons, but it's not a gift to anybody."

"Your question has been answered," the first slayer replied, before fading away.

The fire disappeared before her, leaving Buffy in confusion.


Glory looked up from her magazine as her collection of lackeys burst through the door, carrying a prisoner. "What the hell is that, and why is his hair that colour?"

"Stunning one, we believe he is..." the minion paused before they all answered her simultaneously. "The key!"

"Really?" Glory cried, her anger forgotten. "That's fantabulous!" she stepped forward, to observe the prisoner. Barely a moment later she frowned. "And impossible. He can't be the key, because, see, the key ... has to be pure."

She walked around the prison, sniffing his scent. "This is a vampire. Lesson number one, vampires equal impure."

"Yeah, damn right I'm impure," Spike replied. "I'm as impure as the driven yellow snow. Let me go."

"You can't even brain-suck a vampire," Glory continued. "He's completely useless."

"Good to know," Spike remarked, backing away from the demons and the god, towards the doorway he was dragged through. "So, I'm just gonna let myself out."

"But, your holiness, we observed the Slayer's group," Jinx replied as the rest of the lackeys rushed to grab Spike, preventing him from escaping. "She protected this one above all others. She asked him to be in charge. She treated him as precious."

"Really? Precious-ss-ss?" Glory drew out the word, savouring it's syllables. "Let's take a peek at you, precious."

"Sod off," Spike swore.

"Oh..." Glory laughed, before punching him.

Spike flew backwards into the wall, then slid down to the floor.

"He doesn't look very fancy to me," Glory remarked.

Spike examined his split lip. "Hey, watch the lip!" He shouted.

"But if the Slayer protects him, maybe appearances are deceiving," Glory considered. She grabbed the vampire, throwing him on to her bed, before straddling him. "Maybe there's something on the inside."

Spike screamed as she thrust one long red fingernail into his stomach.

"Shhh," Glory admonished. "What do you know, precious? What can I dig out of you?" she wondered.

Spike screamed in pain, wondering how long he could last before the rescue party came for him.


Elita woke from the short doze she mysteriously fell into, to find that the bear had disappeared, replaced by a fire and another creature, who was hidden in the darkness now surrounding the clearing.

"Are you my guide?" she asked. "Do you have the answers I seek?"

"Yes," the creature replied, her voice seeming to originate from nature, as though the animal was the same age as the earth itself.

"I wish to know my fate," Elita began, choosing her words with care. "When the final battle with Glory has been concluded. Will I continue to live in my present form, or will I return to my previous one."

"You and the slayer are alike," the stranger replied. "You both seek the answers to the same questions."

"The nature of Buffy's existence is not dependent on Glory's actions," Elita argued. Her eyes had adjusted to the darkness now; she could see that the form opposite her was human. Her skin was dark, covered in strange markings, clothed in simple, minimal woollens to protect her from the elements.

"You are wrong," the woman replied. "The slayer's existence is dependent on the actions of Glory. Just as all humanity. You are the key upon which their fate rests."

"I know that," Elita said. "But what will happen to me?"

"You are fearful for your humanity," the woman determined. "Despite your short existence, you have grown to love it, just as the slayer has. Love, give, forgive. You must feel the emotion, learn to it accept it before it will lead you to your gift."

"Gift?" Elita echoed. "What is my gift?"

"Life is your gift," the woman answered.

Elita frowned in confusion. "Life is my gift?" She sought to confirm. "How is that possible?"

"You will learn," the woman replied. "In time."

And with that, she disappeared into the night, along with the fire, leaving Elita within that state of confusion.


"Damn it!" Angel cried as he slapped his mobile closed in frustration. "I can't get a signal," he despaired.

"Where could they be?" Tara asked nervously, her mind concerned with what was happening to her boyfriend.

"On the road, I hope," Wesley added, as Angel paced to another part of the nightclub to try for a signal from his network there.

The former watcher turned to his left. "How's it coming?" He asked.

"More expensive by the minute," Xander replied as he and Oz retrieved another tool with which to try and prize open the doors. "What did they seal these things with?"

"They got to the rear ones as well," Cordelia announced as she and Doyle emerged from the backstage area of the nightclub. "After people left."

"Now I know why the previous owner practically threw me the keys to this place," Xander moaned as he tossed aside the useless tool. "Every night another demon decides it's time to storm the Bronze. He was relieved to get rid of the place."

"Do you think some hocus-pocus might work?" Oz asked his girlfriend.

"It's worth a shot," Willow agreed. "If Xander's willing."

"At this point, I'd take a blow torch to the place," her best friend replied. "Cash in on the insurance. Although they'd probably realise it was arson and charge me for it."

"Shh!" Angel cried, as he came to halt, the cell pressed to his ear. "Buffy? Oh, hi Elita. Listen, has she finished yet? Something's happened."

"Open Sesame," Willow whispered, waving her hands over the door.

"What!?!" Xander glanced at her in frustration. "Are you having me on?"

The doors opened and the slayer walked through, causing all to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Angel ended his call to take her in his arms. "Did you find your answers?" He asked her softly.

"No, only more questions," Buffy replied. "Death is my gift? What sort of reply is that, I ask you?" She shook her head. "Anyway, what happened here?"

"Spike was kidnapped by Glory's demons," Tara answered.

"They think he's the key," Anya added.

"Then we better get to her place and rescue him," Buffy proposed. "Before she discovers that he's not."

"You know where she would have stashed him?" Cordelia asked.

"No," Buffy replied. "But I think I figure it out."


"I have a riddle for you, precious," Glory remarked as she stood before Spike. "How is a vampire that won't talk like an apple?"

Spike declined from answering her, his injuries straining his resources. Wounds littered his body, which was suspended from the ceiling, damage which required a lot of blood before he could properly heal, a meal which he was currently denied access to. His last supplement had been before he and Angel left the mansion for a patrol. Silently he hoped that was enough to last until the cavalry came to rescue him.

"Their skin can be peeled to reveal a core," Glory answered her own question. Suddenly she grabbed his hair, pulling his head back. Her other hand carried a dagger, and he screamed in agony when she used the weapon to cut his chest.

"Think I can do you in one long strip?" Glory asked him.

"Enough," Spike pleaded. "No more. I'll tell you who the sodding key is."


"Glory's key-sniffing Cobra was about here when I killed it," Buffy revealed as a contingent of the slayerettes followed her to the grassy knoll above the rich suburbs. The others where camped out at Giles and Jenny's apartment, the couple's home being one of the few places left which they believed was unknown to Glory, as none of them had stopped by the place today. "Me and Angel chased it to this spot. I think it was headed back to her."

"Do you think she lives around here?" Willow asked her.

"It's not a lot to go on," Xander added.

"It's all we got," Buffy replied. She turned to Tara. "You sure you're up for this?" She asked her softly. "You could have stayed with the others."

"I need to see him," Tara replied.

"Then lets go," Buffy uttered, before leading the force down to the apartment block.


"Is that better?" Glory asked as she held the glass of water her prisoner had asked for to his lips. "Do you think you can try to talk again now?"

Spike coughed, then nodded slightly.

"Good. Because I'm tired of these games!" Glory cried, smashing the glass against his face. "'I need time, I need a drink,'" she mocked his pleas. "You're a very needy little bloodsucker, and it's not very attractive. So start talking."

"Yeah. Okay. The key. Here's the thing..." Spike began, pausing as he tried to untie his hands behind his back, unseen by the god or her minions watchful eyes. "It's that guy... on TV ... what's his name?"

Glory frowned. "On the television?"

"That show ... the prize show ... where they guess what stuff costs?" Spike continued.

"The Price Is Right?" Queried one demon.

"Oh, Bob Barker!" Jinx cried.

The other minion jumped up in glee. "We will bring you Bob Barker! We will bring you the limp and beaten body of Bob Bark-"

"It is not Bob Barker, scabby morons!" Glory yelled. "The key is new to this world ... and Bob Barker is as old as grit. The vampire ... is lying to me."

Despite his pain, Spike grinned. "Yeah, but it was fun. And guess what, bitch. I'm not telling you jack. You're never gonna get your sodding key, 'cause you might be strong, but in our world, you're an idiot."

"I am a god," Glory corrected.

"The god of what, bad home perms?" Spike countered.

Glory was outraged. "Shut up! I command you, shut up!"

"Yeah, okay, sorry, but I just had no idea that gods were such prancing lightweights," Spike remarked, not in the least apologetic. "Mark my words, the Slayer ... is going to kick your skanky, lopsided ass back to whatever place would take a cheap, whorish, fashion victim, ex-god like you."

The god spun round, delivering a kick to the vampire's chest. But it was the move that would prove her downfall, and his moment, as it broke the restraints on his wrist.

Spike flew backwards from the force of the impact, colliding with the apartment door into the hallway outside. Using the journey to his advantage, he rolled on to his feet before sinking into a chair to gather what was left of his depleted energy.

"Good plan, Spike," he muttered to himself as he struggled to rise.

In the apartment Glory turned to her lackeys. "Bring him back."


Spike staggered down the hall towards the elevator, praying the doors stayed open by the time he reached them.

"Here!" Cried a demon, catching sight of their escaping prisoner.

The doors began to close. Spike landed on his knees before them and set about wrenching them apart.

"Oh, god," he muttered as he heard more demons coming round the corner.

The elevator doors opened, and he leaned forward, letting himself drop on to the top of the descending lift.

After he had recovered from the landing, he opened the hatch and let himself fall into the empty elevator.

The demons took to the stairs, coming to stand around him as he fell out on the landing of the ground floor.

"You do not insult Glory by escaping," one declared.

Spike scowled at them as the doors burst open.

"Slayer!" cried a lackey.

The chipped vampire fell against the wall in relief as Buffy, Willow, Tara, Angel and Xander entered the building, armed with crossbows and swords. His girlfriend rushed to his side while the others fell upon the demon lackeys.

Buffy kicked at her attacker after he caused the crossbow to fly out of her hands, before punching him in the face. She caught the tail end of the weapon with her foot and tossed it back up, catching the weapon in time to deliver an arrow to another demon before he could get to attack her.

Angel fought by her side, pounding the demons, while Willow and Xander helped Tara aid Spike to the door. As in all battles he and his beloved fought effortlessly in combination with one another, the perfect slaying duo for the demands of the demonic infested hellmouth of the twenty-first century. The monastic dwarflike lackeys proved no match for them, just a wryly set of foes, bent on retrieving their god's prisoner. They had no care for their own survival, death was nothing in comparison to the rewards they received serving their god. In that attitude lay the key to their survival against the odds, in the face of chosen warriors.

But the slayer and her angel were unconcerned whether the demons lived or died at their hands. Their mission was to attack, a necessary diversion to give time to the others to rescue the prisoner. And in this they succeeded.

"Buffy," Xander cried, causing her to whirl round. "We've got him!"

"Sorry guys," Buffy remarked turned round in time to dodge a hit from one demon and deliver a strike to another. "I hate to punch and run, but we've got what we came for." She hit the one who's punch she avoided, the last to send to the floor, then she and Angel cleared the landing, following the others out of the building.

 


"How is he?" Buffy asked later when they were back at the mansion, having called the rest from Giles and Jenny's apartment, to let them know that they could return to their homes, with warnings to let her know if Glory launched retaliation tonight.

"Recovering," Tara replied, she having returned with the slayer, Elita, Angel and Spike to 1901 Crawford Street, anxious to make sure her boyfriend was alright. "He didn't tell her a thing," she added.

"I know," Buffy assured her, handing her the mug full of pigs blood, a fresh batch for the chipped vampire. "Spike may love to wind me up half the time, but I know he would never betray us. He's a good guy."

Tara nodded. "I almost lost him," she uttered, swallowing back a sob at the grief his death would have caused to her.

"He's safe," Buffy promised her. "I'd die before I let anything happen to any of you," she added, unconsciously understanding her ancestor's answer now.



"Ahh, Jinxy and Murky," Glory uttered joyfully as her lackeys finally returned to her apartment. "What took you so long?"

"The Slayer was there," Jinx began.

"A lethal fighter," Murk added.

"She seemed to be everywhere at once," Jinx agreed.

"She had friends," Murk continued. "With many weapons!"

"They may have been demons," Jinx decided.

"And where's my vampire?" Glory asked.

Suddenly the demons appeared a loss for words. Behind them the door fell from it's hinges, the sound from the impact of the wood veneer falling to the floor eclipsed by their screaming, as they paid dearly for their failure.

The End.
To Be Continued In.
The Veil Descends.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: This is a rewrite of Tough Love, with the necessary changes to fit with my canon. Dialogue was taken from the original episode, along with some of my own creation. Enjoy.

 

The Veil Descends.

"Today, we turn to the myths surrounding gods," Giles began, unable to avoid directing a glance at Buffy, who was seated with Anya, Cordelia, Willow and Oz in fourth row from the dais. "Their origins and the sources which tells us of their powers." He paused to write the key words on his whiteboard behind him. "Often the nature of the society who revered these gods reveal as much about themselves though their tales of the glory of their deities, as they intended to reveal about the gods. They give them skills which they consider the height of achievement; something usually which they lack. Gods are supposed to be all powerful, invulnerable, omnipotent, beyond a simple mortal's knowledge and understanding."

Giles paused again, to stop writing and turn to face his class. "Yet, paradoxically, their society strove to give them weaknesses; Jesus his mortality, Achilles his heel, Superman his Kryptonite," he added, drawing laughter from some of his students. "Just because our definitions of gods have changed, doesn't mean we stop regarding them as heroes, whether they come from ancient civilisations, or the nearest comic book. Today's super hero is yesterday's god; a being who ancient civilisations would revere, whose knowledge is beyond their understanding, whose morals they would strive to possess, in order to make themselves better human beings.

"Equally, there were gods who served to spread evil, cause chaos, who had the ability to defeat those who embodied good. Like the latter they were inflicted with frailties; often the desire for a key to cause new chaos upon the world. Today we often treat our gods with contempt, or with the quest to render them just like us. We forget that their creators gave them the same quest as ourselves were granted. A quest for enlightenment; for the understanding of ourselves. For knowledge on why we are here, where we came from, and the nature of our home world."


In Sunnydale General Hospital, Ben skidded to a controlled halt on the tiles of the corridor, before the mentor of his internship.

"Benjamin," the physician remarked in greeting. "This is a pleasant surprise."

"I'm sorry I'm late," Ben apologised, recognising the sarcasm underlying doctor Byrne's words.

"You're not late," Alex Byrne now informed him.

Confused, Ben checked his watch. "But sir,"

The doctor interrupted him. "You can't be late to a job that you don't have," he added, signing the clipboard before him then hiding it to another colleague, who walked away to attend to his patient. "Interestingly enough, I've decided to give your job to someone who'll actually do it." He sighed as Ben exhaled in evident frustration.

"Honest to God, Ben! I've been calling you for two weeks. Where the hell have you been?" Alex asked. "I didn't want to," he paused, rephrasing his sentence, "I'm sorry to fire you, but I need somebody I can count on."

"I haven't been here..." Ben let the end of his reply fade away as he realised the result would require answers to something he could not explain himself.

"I haven't been here in two weeks," he uttered resigned. "There's an explanation for this. Which ... I ... can't exactly give you. I - can I just tell you it's not my fault?"

Alex inclined his head. "Sure. You can also tell me that the dog ate your homework, or maybe eating Twinkies made you do it, or ... maybe yeah, that there's really a wicked demonic creature living inside you that takes control of your body and forces you to do it's bidding. Take responsibility for your actions, Ben!!"

"I ... this ..." Ben groaned, more angry with himself than the man before him. "You know, forget it. Just forget it."

He turned and walked away, heading for the locker room, where he vented his emotions into cleaning out his effects.

"This is so unfair," he muttered. "You're taking everything away from me. Everything I worked for, I earned, I care about. These are my choices, this is my life, and you're ruining it!" Abruptly he paused a something came over him. When he realised the nature of it, his anger increased.

"No. No. Not here. Not now, please," he groaned, putting his hands to his face. "I'm Ben. I'm Ben. I'm Ben."

Futilely, he continued his chant, banging his head against the open locker door, as if the pain inflicted could prevent the transformation which was taking hold of him. But all to no avail, as another god possessed his body.

"I'm hungry," Glory finished.

 


"Great lecture today, Giles," Buffy uttered as she and the contingent of the slayerettes studying Mythology walked down to the teaching dais at the end of class. "Were you channelling our hell god's desires?"

"Maybe a little," the watcher and professor confessed. "I hoped that by doing a class about them would perhaps help us gain some further insight, but the weapons the ancients used to defeat gods wouldn't work on Glory."

"How do you know?" Cordelia asked.

"We've already tried them," Giles replied. He filled away the notes from his latest class. "I'll see you all at lunch?"

"Magic Box, one o'clock," Buffy uttered in agreement.

"Oh, how is Spike?" Her watcher asked.

"His usual self," Buffy answered. "Tara says his bruises are still visible, but they should fade away soon."

"He's managing the shop," Anya added. "No more overtime for me, which sucks."

"On the bright side," Buffy remarked, "at least we know whose gonna cause the annual Sunnydale apocalypse this year."

"How is that a bright side?" Anya asked. "I don't want to face another one of those."

"We usually survive them," Oz informed her. "Or at least manage to avert them."

"I wish we could find Glory's Achilles' heel," Willow murmured as they headed out of the lecture hall into the corridor.

"You never know, it could be a weakness we all have," Buffy suggested as they wandered the halls. "Like Giles said, all gods are susceptible to human temptations."


If the slayer had been able to see Glory's present surroundings, she would have marvelled at the astuteness of her opinions. The god was taking a bath, her body residing under hot water and bubbles. Beside her marble bed, three of her dwarflike monastic robed lackeys kneeled, robbed of their visions by black blindfolds. Despite this temporary incapacity, they each held an object of their god's wants; a wine glass upon on a tray, another a large box of chocolates.

"We got this part right, that's for sure," Glory mused as she revelled in her paradise. "Lot of sucky things in this dimension -- bubble baths? Not one of them. Know what I mean?"

"I am in thunderous agreement, oh glittering, glistening Glorificus," Jinx, one of the kneeling demons, uttered.

"I wasn't talking to you," Glory informed him.

"Uh, begging your pardon, and begging in general," Murk, the second kneeling demon cautiously uttered, "but ... were you talking to me?"

"Eww." The god shuddered in revulsion. "Yeah, right. Like any of you have ever bathed, anyway."

"Oh, but we do, your scrumptiousness," Murk replied. "We bathe in your splendiforous radiance, your aromatic-"

Glory cut him of mid compliment. "How about you shut up and listen to me, you disgusting little fools? Okay. Now, I asked for the key, and you brought me a vampire. A pulseless, impure, follicly-fried vampire. Loofah!"

Murk retrieved the required device and bestowed it upon his deity.

"So, what I think we have here is a failure for you to do your fricking jobs," Glory continued as she scrubbed her leg. "Pardon my French." She forcefully put the loofah back into lackey's hands. "Mimosa."

The third lackey held out the glass.

"Mmm ..." Glory sipped appreciatively. "Vitamins. So I think you better rack your little minion brains, and tell me everything that you saw when you were spying on Buffy and her wacky pals. Everything. Mm. Then I'll figure out who the key is."


"Honey," Xander remarked to his girlfriend, making her jump as she whirled round to face him, taking her eyes off the customers. "Old saying. 'A watched customer never buys.'"

"They would if they were patriotic," Anya replied.

Willow looked up from the leather bound volume before her, meeting her best friend's gaze of equal puzzlement.

"Okay, I'm going in," Xander decided. "Patriotic?" He queried to his girlfriend.

"Yes," Anya replied. "I've recently come to realise there's more to me than just being human. I'm also an American."

"Yes, I suppose you are, in a manner of speaking," Giles agreed from his place by the magic books bookshelves. "You were born here, your mortal self."

"Well, that's right, foreigner," Anya agreed, causing the watcher and her boss to glare at her. She turned back to her boyfriend. "So I've been reading a lot about the good ol' us of A embracing the extraordinarily precious ideology that's helped to shape and define it."

"Democracy?" Willow guessed.

"Capitalism," Anya replied. "The free market depends on the profitable exchange of goods for currency. It's a system of symbiotic beauty apparently lost on these old people." She paused, gesturing at the customers. "Look at them. Perusing the shelves. Undressing the merchandise with their eyeballs," she turned to her friends, "all ogle, no cash. It's not just annoying, it's un-American."

"Appalling," Giles commented wryly. "Almost as if they no longer think money can buy happiness."

The irony of the comment sailed past Anya's head. "Totally un-American. Oh, and you know what else is un-American? French people."

"You don't say," Willow uttered.

"From what I hear, they don't tip. Now, French old people? That's really the bottom of the barrel, you know?"

"Anya, how's about we try being a bit less prejudiced, and a bit more inclusive?" Xander advised. "Not us, just you."

His girlfriend sighed. "Fine. I'm gonna make those fogies buy things."

"Thanks, mate," Spike remarked when the former vengeance demon wandered off to try and achieve her aims.

"No problem," Xander returned as the shop bell rang, signalling the arrival of more members of the slayerettes. "Hey guys, how was class?"

"Philosophical," Buffy replied as she and Tara entered the Magic Box, Angel and Elita following behind them.

"We had to define what the poets were thinking," Tara added in explanation, as she walked to where Spike was.

Her boyfriend kissed her before speaking. "Usually how to make their efforts appeal to a lady," he remarked. "That was my motivation anyway, luv."

"Probably was theirs' too," Buffy agreed, finding a seat at the table. "But the professors like to pretend every line holds some deeper meaning. Interesting, but exhausting." She laid her head against her boyfriend's chest, the action causing Angel to put his arm around her. "Wake me up when the apocalypse is over."

"So is that a no on the World's Culture fair this afternoon?" Willow asked.

"Oh, I completely forgot," Buffy replied. "Sorry, Will. I've just had a lot mind lately."

"I know," her best friend replied. "Glory, Elita, the possible end of the world."

"Plus college, slaying," Buffy broke off with a sigh. "Going cultural is the last thing on my mind lately."

"But it could do you good," Willow argued. "Give you a distraction, a break. A chance to do something normal for a change."

"What counts as normal these days?" Buffy countered, meeting her friend's pleading gaze. "Alright, maybe I'll come."

"Yeah," Willow cheered. "Who else?" She asked the rest of them.

"I will," Angel replied. "You're right, its been too long since we've done something normal together in the day."

"That's four," Willow counted, as Oz nodded, "anyone else?"

"I could be persuaded to shut up shop early," Spike volunteered.

"Are you sure you're up to it?" Tara asked, turning to face him.

"Just a few fading bruises, luv," Spike replied gently. "Nothing to write home about."

"That's six," Willow.

"Make that eight," Xander proposed as Anya nodded.

"And ten," Cordelia added as Doyle silently accepted.

"Eleven," Elita decided, causing Giles to frown.

"Are your sure that's safe?" He asked.

"There will be loads of people about," Elita pointed. "Glory's been discreet so far, she won't attack me in public."

"We'll see you there. Come on, honey," Angel uttered, urging his beloved out of her chair. "I'll get you home, and you can sleep until then."

"For once, I won't argue," Buffy replied. "We just need to stop by my Mom's first. I promised I check in with her today for lunch, remember?"

"Okay, your mother's then home," Angel corrected himself. "See you all this afternoon, guys," he added in farewell before the couple exited the shop.

"Giles, is Buffy alright?" Tara asked him softly when the couple's car was out of sight.

"I think so," the watcher replied. "She just needs this to be over."

Don't we all, Elita murmured inwardly as she returned to the book before her.


"So it's her," Glory concluded after the morning's debriefing. "Under our noses all this time," she added, a small smile gracing her face. "I like the detail work those monks did. Quirks, foibles, passions ... it's all so cute, so ... human." She look to the audience before her, seeking confirmation. "You know?"

The three monastic lackeys standing before her nodded.

"Pretty convincing really," Glory added. "But not convincing enough."

Like a general before a battle, inspecting her troops, she rose to her feet to pace the floor before her lieutenants, who stood at attention, ready and willing to follow her orders.

"You all know your assignments," Glory remarked, evaluating them one by one. "I think it's time to collect the key."

She exited the apartment, the demon minions following.


"Poor Ben," her mother's voice was heard to say as Buffy and Angel entered 1630 Revello Drive a little time later. "He seemed like such a good student."

"Hey, Mom," Buffy greeted as she walked into the living room. "Hey, Dr Byrne," she added, as she recognised her mother's guest. "Did I interrupt something?"

"No," Joyce replied, staring at her daughter with brief confusion. "Oh, we were meant to have lunch today. God, I'm sorry, honey."

"It's no bother," Buffy assured her. "I just came round to cancel actually. I didn't sleep well last night, I was gonna catch a nap at home before the Cultural fair this afternoon."

She paused, turning her mother's companion. "What's wrong with Ben?" She asked.

"I had to let him go," Alex replied. "He's been late, which I was willing to let slide, but he was also absent for two weeks, and his patient care has been slacking of late."

"That's a shame," Buffy remarked. "He's been so helpful, so caring when I've seen him. Between the two of you, I've almost stopped fearing hospitals."

"If he comes back, I'm willing to give him a good referral," Alex replied. "Let him try again. But something seems to bothering him, something more important than his career."

Buffy inclined her head in sympathy. "Well, I ought to leave you to it," she decided. "Enjoy your lunch, Mom," she added with a smile, before walking out of the house.

Outside, the minions watched her, waiting for her boyfriend to reverse the car out of the driveway and on to the street before they followed them.


There were a lot of things which occurred this day that later, the slayerettes wished they could go back and change. Reliving days was not a power any of them possessed, and one which they wished could trade a gift for to receive. For although they never admitted it to anyone but to themselves, in silence and solitary, they were sure that if the Powers That Be had given them this day to relive over, everything would have been different.

For it all came down to a matter of timing. A moment in this day where every second had countered. For good and for evil.

If this day had been reset, they were all sure, evil would never have won.

That dark power was far from Tara's mind at this present moment. Unbeknownst to her, she was the girl, the one girl in the world, on whom this day hung. Every outcome depended on her, and she was never aware of it.

Until it was all too late.

For the slayerettes, it was the darkest chapter of their lives. A moment none of them wished to relive or repeat, without the ability to change what was to come.

Like all significant events, it began with a simple action; the clasping of two hands.

"Is this seat taken?" Glory asked Tara, causing her to gasp in fear.


"I hope this isn't a return," Anya remarked as she deposited the package she had picked up before the shop was shut for the afternoon. "Everyone wants petrified hamsters and they're never happy with them."

"Well, there's just this to deal with, then we can go to fair," Spike mused as he locked the front door after changing the open sign to closed.

"You seem awfully anxious to be out in the sun," Giles commented from his place by the research bookshelves.

"Just don't want to be late for Tara," Spike confessed as he returned to the counter.

"Things are going really well for the two of you, aren't they?" Willow uttered.

"Yeah," Spike replied. "It's strange," he added with a small grin. "When I first came here, the last thing I wanted to be doing was fighting the good fight. But since the chip, since Tara, everything's different. I see what Angel sees in his redemption. There's hope for all of us, if we could feel the same way." He paused, straightening up suddenly.

Giles caught his gaze before he could speak, and held up a hand to prevent him, before he crossed the shop floor to reach the door to the alleyway. Then he opened the door, banging it violently into the monastic lackey who fell into the room. Grabbing the demon by the ear, Giles dragged him across the floor before throwing him into a chair.

"Now, what do we have here?" He asked, in Ripper dulcet tones.

"Oh, he's one of those things that work for Glory!" Anya cried.

"Yes," Giles remarked in the same deadly tone. "How helpful."

"I do indeed work for the god," the demonic monk replied. "Let me go if you do not wish to incur her anger," he threatened.

"Well, she's not here," Giles pointed out. "What a marvellous opportunity for you and me to talk," he added darkly.

"I will not betray Glorificus," the lackey vowed. "I will never talk, no matter what heinous torture-"

"Actually," Giles interrupted, "you're talking quite a lot, just not about the right things. Tell us why you're here."

"No words shall pass my lips that will bring peril to Glorificus," the minion avowed.

Maintaining eye contract, Giles raised his hand in the direction of Willow and Anya. "Girls, get the twine that's on the counter, let's tie him up."

As the girls turned round to fetch the rope, Spike joined the watcher by their hostage, his face letting lose the full power of his ridged forehead and fangs, while Giles applied additional pressure of his own making, causing the demon to sob.

"No, no!" he cried. "I'll tell you! Anything! Please! Whatever you want! Just, I'll, anything!"

"What happened?" Anya asked as she and Willow turned back.

"He changed his mind," Giles replied darkly, as Spike face reverted to human form once more.

"I'm ... I'm supposed to watch," the monk confessed. "We're watching the Slayer's people ... while Glory fetches the key."

"Glory knows who the key is?" Willow queried.

"Oh god," Giles murmured as he removed his glasses.

"We've got to call Buffy," Anya decided, turning to fetch the phone.

"Too late. Too late," the demon added. "Glorificus will find the witch, and there's nothing you can do to stop her."

"Witch?" Anya echoed. "What do you mean?"

Spike and Willow reached the horrifying conclusion at the same time. "Tara!"

"She's the new one among you," the monk continued. "It wasn't hard to figure out. The glorious one will have found her by now."

Giles turned to the departing two. "Willow, Spike, wait! I'll go with-"

"No!" Willow returned hurriedly. "Call Buffy a-and go look in Tara's room, we're gonna check the fair."


"Oh, this is nice," Glory remarked, her hand still clasping Tara's. "Just hanging out, just us girls. You like that sort of thing, don't you?"

Her hand gripped Tara's tightly, until the latter cried in pain.

"Don't ... make a sound," Glory cautioned. She raised her eyes from her companion to the tourists, students, children and adults at the fair. "Nah," she decided. "They won't help you. I'd kill them. You know that."

The bones in her hand cracking under the pressure, Tara looked around desperately for someone that might be able to help.

"There's no one here that can stop me," Glory reminded her. She pointed to a few innocent bystanders. "I'll kill her and ... and them I'll kill him, and her and her, and it'll all be your fault."

Where were they, Tara wondered silently, pleading that suddenly, out of nowhere, Spike, Buffy or Angel would come running.

"Kinda funny, isn't it?" Glory laughed. "All these people here and ... no one who can do a thing. Not a person who can help you. But that's people for ya. They're pretty worthless. But keys, on the other hand ... keys are worth a very lot."

The god smiled, raising their clenched hands to her lips, cleaning the blood from the injury. A moment later, she frowned and spat.

"You lying little tramp!" She cried in disgust. "You're not the key, you're nothing! Just another worthless human being!"

"I didn't-" Tara protested, but the god was in full flow.

"I hate being lied to," Glory continued. "It makes me feel so betrayed." She brightened suddenly. "Hey! You wanna make it all better?"

Tara could only stare back at her in fear of what was to come.

"If you tell me who the key really is ... I'll let you go," Glory remarked, giving her hand another squeeze.

Tara whimpered in with pain, but resisted still.

"Think about it." Glory added. "You think your hand hurts? Imagine what you'd feel with my fingers wiggling in your brain. It doesn't kill you. What it does ... is make you feel like you're in a noisy little dark room ... naked and ashamed ... and there are things in the dark that need to hurt you because you're bad ... little pinching things that go in your ears ... and crawl on the inside of your skull. And you know ... that if the noise and the crawling would stop ... that you could remember how to get out. But you never, ever will."

Tara gasped, unable to do anything but sit and listen, as Glory squeezed her hand a third time.

"Who ... is ... the key?" Glory asked.

Tara forced her tears away, determined to be strong. She looked the hell god in the eye, her refusal silent, but crystal clear.

"Fine," Glory remarked. "Let's get crazy."

The hell god raised her other hand to caress her companions face. Tara tried to pull away, but to no avail.


"Where the hell is she?" Spike cried as he and Willow raced through the crowds. They had been running full stop from the Magic Box.

"By force of heart and mindful power, by waning time and waxing hour ..." Willow began enchanting. "I echo Diana, um, when I decree ..." she broke off suddenly, her memory failing her. "uh, what is it, what is it?"

Before them the crowds parted, revealing the source of their frantic search on one of the park benches, Glory's hands upon her temples.

"No! No!" Spike yelled.

"That she must now be free!" Willow finished the spell.

Another group of people obscured their view of the bench. By the time they had passed, Tara was alone.

"Tara!" Spike cried as he rushed to her side.

Willow watched helplessly as the chipped vampire grabbed his girlfriend by the shoulders, trying vainly to capture her attention. "No!!"

"Tara, Tara, are you okay?" Spike asked her.

"It's dirty. It's all dirty. And all over me!" Tara cried, her fingers brushing her clothes. "Dirty. Dirty. I'm bad. Bad."

"Tara," Spike uttered softly, pulling her into his arms. "Oh, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."

Willow joined him on the bench, her hand going to her cell phone.

Around them people passed by, unnoticed and unaware of the tragedy which had passed.

 



Hours later, it was a sombre group gathering at the hospital, clustered around Tara's room in the waiting area outside, in silent, collective grief and shock.

"Can she go home now?" Spike asked.

The doctor shook his head. "Unfortunately, no. Hospital policy dictates we keep her for the night."

"But does she have to?" Spike pleaded. "I-I can take care of her at home."

Clothed in as hospital gown, Tara spoke vacantly her judgement on the matter. "It's poisoned. Why don't I tell you that? It, it has to be checked, though."

"She your sister?" the doctor asked him.

"I-i-it has to be verified, of course," Tara continued. "Anyone can tell you that. Of course. Of course, of course."

Spike stared at his girl desolately. "She's my everything."

"Well, you can get her released first thing in the morning," the doctor revealed. "But she's gotta spend one night in the psych ward. Just for observation. We'll keep an eye on her, do a couple basic tests, then you can take her home. Does that sound fair?"

Spike nodded reluctantly.

"Well, sit tight then, and I'll send a nurse by in a few minutes to pick up Tara," the doctor replied before exiting the room.

"Man, words cannot express how much I hate this place," Xander remarked as they watched the physician walk past them.

"It's dreadful," Giles agreed.

"It's like communism," Anya added.

The doors flew open, causing the trio to look up as Buffy rushed in.

"Hey," she remarked, coming to a halt at the threshold of the room. "Spike, I'm so sorry," she added, pulling him into her arms.

"Why didn't I tell her to come to me?" Spike asked hollowly, gazing at his girl over the slayer's shoulder. "Then she would have been in the Magic Box, safe."

"I'm so sorry," Buffy repeated, drawing back from him.

"They kill mice," Tara remarked.

"Tara," Buffy uttered, moving to hug her. "I'm sorry it took me so long, but Elita's safe with Angel, so I-I can stay as long as you need."

Spike clutched her hand. "I'm so scared, Buffy," he confessed. "I've never felt so powerless in my whole bloody life."


"Nothing to be worried about," Angel assured his companion at the mansion on Crawford street. "No one's gonna hurt you."

"Oh yeah?" Elita countered. "Same no one who did that to Spike and Tara?"

"It was just a few bruises," Angel replied. "And vampires heal."

"But Tara won't," Elita replied. "She's stay that way forever. And it's all my fault."

Angel frowned. "How do you figure that?"

"If Buffy hadn't freed me from Harmony, none of this would have happened," Elita replied tearfully.

"You don't know that," Angel remarked, sinking into the sofa beside her.

Elita sniffed. "You wanna know what I'm scared of, Angel? ... Me. Right now, Glory thinks Tara's the key. But I'm the key. I am. And anything that happens to Tara ... is 'cause of me. Spike's bruises, his limp ... that's all me too. I'm like a lightning rod for pain and hurt. And everyone around me suffers and dies. I ... must be something so horrible ... to cause so much pain ... and evil."

"That's ridiculous," Angel objected.

"What do you know?" Elita countered.

"I'm a vampire," Elita," Angel pointed out. "Despite my half humanity, despite my soul, I know something about evil. And you're not evil."

"Maybe ... I'm not evil," Elita allowed. "But I don't think I can be good."

Angel gently pulled her against him. "Elita, whether you're good or evil is for you to decide. It can't be determined by Glory's actions. It can only by determined by yours."


In the hospital, Tara pushed at the nurse whom came to take her away. "Don't! Please don't with that treachery!"

Spike watched helplessly, trying to keep his grief and worry hidden as the nurse clasped the wheelchair to walk his girl out.

"I told the cat," Tara added. "And now I beg my mother sitting all alone."

"Bye, luv," Spike uttered softly. "I'll see you tomorrow."

He watched her travel down the corridor. After a moment, she turned, her hand stretched out. Before he knew it, he was starting to run after her.

Doyle stepped in front of him. "Spike. No. It's just for one night."

"Yeah, I-I know," Spike took a deep unnecessary breath, "but ... it's a whole night. I don't think I can sleep without her."

"You can sleep with me," Anya volunteered, causing everyone to stare at her. "Well, now that came out a lot more adulterous than it sounded in my head."

Buffy stepped forward. "Spike, you just have to rest. Okay? Right now there's nothing you can do."

Spike's face froze in mid agreement. "Yes there is," he replied, walking to the door.

"No. No way," Buffy began, chasing after him. "You cannot even think about taking on Glory."

"You saw what she did to Tara," Spike remarked. "I can't let the evil bitch get away with it."

"No," Buffy objected. "You have to let her get away with it. Even I'm no match for her, you know that."

"But maybe I am," Spike remarked.

The slayer grabbed his arm. "Spike, you're still recovering from what she did to you. "You're not. And I won't let you go."

"This is not your choice," Spike pointed out. "It's mine."

"This is not the time," Buffy continued.

Angrily, Spike wrenched his arm free, flinching slightly from the pain. "When, Buffy? When is? When you feel like it? When it's someone you love as much as I love Tara? When it's Angel, is that it?"

"When we have a chance," Buffy replied. "We'll fight her, when we have a chance. You wouldn't last another five minutes with her, Spike. She's a god."

"Fine. I'll wait," Spike conceded.

"It's the only way," Buffy finished, relieved.

"Yeah," Spike murmured, before turning to walk away.

"Can I do anything?" Buffy asked him.

"Just let me be alone," Spike replied, heading down the corridor.

Buffy watched him go, turning slightly as her best friend placed a hand on her shoulder.

"I'll keep an eye on him," Willow volunteered.

"Thanks, Will," Buffy replied. "I better get back to Angel and Elita," she added softly, concerned that the demons might still be watching them.

"No problem," Willow, replied.

She waited for Buffy to return to the others, then took off at a run after Spike.

 



The Magic Box front door banged open, the bell almost flying off its hinges as Spike sprinted inside. He ran for the stairs leading to the upper mezzanine, turning only when the door crashed against the wall again.

"Oh, its you," Spike bit out as he caught sight of his tail. "Blondie sent you, did she?" He added, his old words for the slayer let loose in his avenging anger.

"Buffy thinks I'm keep an eye on you," Willow replied. "But I'm actually here to help. If you're taking her on you're gonna need some spells."

Spike stepped aside. "Lead the way," he said.

Willow rushed past him to the bookshelves, clearing from some of them the equipment which they would need; a jewelled dagger, vials.

Finally she retrieved a very old leather bound volume, placing it on the floor before them.

"Sit back," Spike urged as he swung the axe he had grabbed at the lock which clasped the leaves together.

The metallic device broke, and the book flew open, its' pages drifting by as if disturbed by a breeze.


"You know, I think I'm a little buzzed from eating that witch!" Glory remarked as she walked down the stairs in her apartment, her feet a little unsteady. "What a mind she has. Mmm, nummy treat."

"Is your grace not the slightest bit concerned about-" Jinx began, but he was cut off.

"What, about the Slayer?" Glory scoffed. "Don't be stupid. I know I'm closing in. The key's as good as mine. Girl like Buffy's got just so many friends. All I gotta do it rip through them one by one until I finally..."

Her voice abruptly stopped as the walls of the apartment began to shudder. Confused the hell god and the demons watched as ornaments fell to the floor and shattered, while the lights suddenly darkened.

"Did anybody order an apocalypse?" Glory asked.

The door flew open, revealing Willow, floating above the floor from the force of her enchantments.

"Kali, Hera, Kronos, Tonic..." she chanted, travelling into the room. "Air like nectar, thick as onyx...Cassiel by your second star..."

"Uhh. It's the other witch," Glory remarked, unaffected. "That's so cute."

"Hold mine victim as in tar," Willow finished.

Air around the hell god shimmered, freezing her in place.

Behind her the minions screamed in horror as someone emerged before them, carrying an axe.

"We ... owe ... you ... pain!" Spike growled out before swinging the weapon.

Blue lightning stretched out from the witch's hands towards the god.

Glory screamed in agony.


"It's all my fault," Elita remarked to Buffy when the slayer had returned home.

"No," Buffy objected. "Sweetheart, it is not your fault."

"How's Spike?" Angel asked.

"He was looking to go all payback-y on Glory for a minute," Buffy revealed. "But I cooled him down a little. Actually a lot."

"So he's not gonna do anything rash then," Angel added.

"No. I explained that there was no point," Buffy replied. "Willow offered to keep an eye on him for me."

"Mm-hmm," Angel mused sceptically.

Buffy knew that tone. "What?"

"You're saying that a powerful and mightily pissed-off vampire was planning on going and spilling himself a few pints of god blood until you, what, explained?" Angel said.

The slayer froze as she considered. "You think he'd ... no. I told him it would be like suicide."

"I'd do it," Angel reminded her.

Buffy rushed up from the sofa and ran out of the mansion.


"Shatter," Willow commanded.

Around her and Spike the mirrors broke, their glass flying towards the hell god, tearing her dress, but unable to harm her.

"Is that it?" Glory scoffed. "Is that the best you can do? You think I care about all this, the apartment, the clothes?"

She pulled her dress away and backhanded Spike, sending him into the sofa. He hit the piece of furniture and landed on the floor.

"Now, sucking on your girlfriend's mind?" Glory remarked. "That was something to treasure."

"Red hasn't finished yet," Spike bit out, causing the god to turn, in time to see a black bag arrive at the witch's feet.

"What's this? Bag of tricks?" Glory mused.

A bundle of daggers flew up out of the bag.

"Bag of knives," Willow enchanted as the blades flew towards the god. Glory used her hands to send them away. "Spirit of serpents now appear."

The god took hold of a table and threw the piece of furniture at the witch, knocking her down.

"Hissing, writhing, striking near," Spike finished the spell.

The requested creature materialised out of the carpeted floor, wrapping itself around the hell god's led.

Glory shook her foot, causing the snake to disappear. She walked towards the witch. "Now this is getting weak."

Willow gasped as the god grabbed her by the neck.

"And so are you, honey," Glory remarked. "Aren't ya?"

The witch spat in her face.

Glory took her arm and dragged her across the floor, retrieving a dagger on her way.

"No!" Willow cried.

The hell god pushed her against the wall, pining her in place. "Know what they used to do to witches, Red? Crucify them."

"Actually, they burned them at the stake, bitch," Spike countered, thrusting a long blade at the hell god's back.

Glory raised her leg and kicked him away. She raised the dagger above Willow.

Suddenly a hand grabbed her wrist.

"They used to bow down to gods," Buffy remarked, before kicking her foe in the abdomen, causing Willow to be freed.

Buffy twisted Glory's hand aside, punching her. "Things change."

Using her grip, she threw the god aside, then executed a cartwheel to kick her in the face. She punched her again and again, but this time the god was ready for her, and blocked the fist before it could reach.

Buffy flipped to kick her again, then threw another punch and then another.

Glory grabbed her arm, wrenched it behind her back, and threw her over a sofa.

"That witch barely slowed me down," she revealed, glaring at the slayer.

Buffy kicked the piece of furniture into the god, pinning her against the wall. Then she reached a hand to Spike and Willow.

Glory pushed the sofa away, ready to renew the duel.

"Thicken," Willow enchanted, and the air held the god once more.

She watched her prey go with annoyance. "This isn't over, you hear me?" she cried, It isn't over!"


The next day, as the sun reached its zenith, the slayer and four of her friends consumed sustenance in the Mansion on Crawford Street.

"Chicken salad?" Buffy asked, holding out the first of the lunch orders.

"Right here," Willow replied.

"Eggplant, that's me," Buffy continued as she took out her own, "Pigs blood to go," she added, handing a Styrofoam cup to Spike, "And ... salami with ...ew, peanut butter?" She turned to her companion in disgust. "Elita."

"Yeah, and pigs blood is completely natural," Elita countered.

"What's Tara got?" Spike asked.

"oh, I ... got her tuna," Elita replied. "Does she like...?" She unwrapped the sandwich, revealing to their companion. "Tara?"

"Plastic and their six sisters," Tara remarked. "Six sick sisters." She turned, suddenly anxious. "Spike?"

"It's okay," Spike assured her softly. "Let's just start slow today. Buffy, could I have that sauce?"

"Sure," Buffy replied, handing him the cup.

Spike opened the sauce and gently spooned into his girlfriend's mouth. "Here you go."

Tara ate it tentatively.

"That's my girl," Spike praised.

"Can I help?" Elita asked.

Spike glanced briefly at the slayer, who nodded, then handed the pot and spoon over to Elita, who carefully copied his actions.

"What are you gonna need?" Buffy asked.

Spike watched Tara eat. "I don't know," he replied. "They gave me a lot of stuff to ... keep her calm." He dropped his tone to lower decibel level. "They said I might have to restrain her at night. But ... sometimes she's fine. She looks at me, and ... she's fine."

"I'm sorry I couldn't-" Buffy began, but Spike shook his head.

"It's okay," he replied. "I can do this. I'm gonna take care of her. Even if she never..." he trailed off, unable to voice the thought. "She's my girl."

"I understand," Buffy replied.

"I know you do," Spike remarked. He turned to Tara. "Hear that, luv? You're my always," he kissed her forehead tenderly, causing her to smile.

Abruptly the wall before them smashed, stone bricks collapsing inward, causing the slayer and Elita to jump from their seats in horror.

"I told you this wasn't over," Glory said darkly.

"No," Tara cried. "The place is cracking! It's cracking! Cracking, no, no, no!"

Elita turned to her. "No, Tara, it's okay."

Tara turned to her, suddenly struck. "Oh, look at that, look at that. The light!"

Buffy froze, helpless, fearing to believe what was happening.

"Oh, it's so pure! Such pure green energy!" Tara cried.

The object of her joy turned to face the god in terror.

"Oh, it's so beautiful," Tara uttered.

Glory smiled.

Buffy glared at her, as the veil of truth descended upon the god.

To Be Continued In
Besieged.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Dialogue has been taken from the original episode; Spiral, which this does not differ from as much as other parts of my cannon. Warning, cliffhanger ending coming up. Enjoy.

Besieged.


Buffy clutched Elita's hand and ran away from the hell god, to the other side of the double height living room, in the direction of the dining room. She kicked open the door on the left wall and leapt into the walled night garden, heading for the gate.

Glory laughed as she started after them, confident of victory now she knew who the key was at last.

Then Willow held up her hand, rendering the hell god immobile with her wiccan enchantment.

As soon as this was done, Spike grabbed hers and Tara's hands before following the slayer through the rear of the mansion.

Willow uttered something under her breath which sent the god flying out of the house into the bushes on the garden driveway out front.

Buffy continued to run, racing through the streets, while Willow, Tara and Spike behind her headed in the opposite direction, trying to create a false trail.

Glory turned into a blur, running faster than the eye could see as she strove to catch up with the slayer and her key. She was so close to escaping this frail mortal body and this limiting world which she had been exiled to, she could not risk losing them now.

"Buffy!" Elita cried, breathing heavily, her energy levels failing her.

"We have to keep moving!" Buffy reminded the girl as they ran along the rich suburbs which surrounded Crawford street.

"I can't!" Elita crying, falling to the ground her strength snapping as the full danger which she was in dawned on her.

Buffy gathered the girl up into her arms and broke into another slayer enhanced run, heading for the busier roads inside the suburbs of the hellmouth.

Unfortunately it was all for naught as suddenly Glory appeared before them.

"I really hate it when people touch my things," the hell god declared.

The slayer froze before her, out of options for the moment.

"Last words, slay-runt?" Glory asked smugly, feeling her victory close at hand.

In the distance the gentle hum evolved into a pounding drumming, the sound of engines gunned, signalling the start of things to come.

The slayer smiled as she identified the source of the noise. "Just one. Truck."

Glory turned to her right, just in time to see the sight of her impending doom, as the heavy duty haulage vehicle smashed into her.

Elita and Buffy ran for the sanctuary of other Scooby hideouts which were more structurally sound than the mansion on Crawford Street right now.

The hell god, sent flying from her collision with the front of the truck landed on a nearby parked car, the depth of the impact causing the roof to collapse. She rose up, ready to resume the pursuit, then suddenly stilled and flinched, as another interfered.

"No! Not now, you idiot!" she cried. "Let go-"

"-of my body!" Ben finished as the transformation was complete.

He rolled off the car bonnet on to the ground.

"Oh, god," he murmured, surveying his public surroundings and dress, inwardly wondering how long it would be before his secret, and hers was out.


"And then whoosh!" Elita cried as she joyfully recapped the events to the rest of the Scoobies, now gathered at Xander's apartment, a temporary sanctuary to gather and prepare for when the god caught up with them. "All of a sudden Glory's standing right there in front of us, all skanky and blonde and thinking she's all that, just 'cause some bumpy heads kiss her stinky feet ...." the girl paused, reconsidering for a brief moment. "She does have nice feet. And she's coming right at us, and Buffy's just standing there not even blinking, like 'Bring it on,' and then, wham! Hell-bitch in orbit."

"Go, Buff!" Xander cheered.

"I knew you'd best Glory eventually," Giles uttered, sufficiently proud. "I mean in all our years of training-"

"A truck hit her," Buffy interrupted absently, her gaze fixed on the view from the window where the hell god had as yet refused to appear.

"Oh," Giles murmured, surprised, and a little disappointed.

"Buffy threw it at her?" Anya asked hopefully.

"Well, no," Elita replied. "She more kind of waited for it to hit Glory. Uh, but then Buffy ran really fast and we got away."

"I don't know how we got away," Buffy confessed, turning from the window. "That truck couldn't have slowed her down for more than a second."

"Well, how isn't important, all that matters is that the two of you are safe," Giles remarked.

"Safe?" Buffy scoffed bitterly. "We've barely been able to manage not getting ourselves seriously dead every time we've crossed paths with Glory. And now that she knows that Elita is the key," she let her sentence end, leaving everyone else present to imagine the consequences of that reality.

"There must be something in the Book of Tarnis that we've missed," Angel suggested carefully, while Giles and Elita flinched at the slayer's tone, the latter in terror of what the god might do to her, the former in concern at the level of negativity in his slayer's voice and words. "Something we can use against Glory."

"A piano!" Anya cried excitedly.

"Because that's what we used to kill that big demon that one time!" Xander remarked sarcastically. "No wait, that was a rocket launcher." He turned to his girlfriend. "Anya, what are you talking about?"

"We should drop a piano on her," Anya replied, causing everyone to look at her with a view to questioning her sanity. "Well, it always works for that creepy cartoon rabbit when he's running from that nice man with the speech impediment."

Giles rolled his eyes. "Yes, or perhaps we could paint a convincing tunnel on the side of a mountain," he mocked. "Let's just keep thinking, everyone. Perhaps we should reassemble at the magic shop, see if there's anything-"

"We can't fight her," Buffy interrupted.

Her watcher looked at her, shocked at her blunt prospect of defeat. "W-well not yet, no, but-"

Buffy shook her head. "No, not ever. She's too strong, Giles. We're not gonna win this with, with stakes, or swords, or spells, or pulling out some uranium power core," she added, recapping the last solutions for their previous trials. "She's a god and she's coming for us. So let's just not be here when she starts knocking."

"Run away?" Cordelia queried.

"Finally, a sensible plan," Anya decided.

"That's not what she meant," Xander said hurriedly, concerned now. "Is it?"

"Well, we can't stay here!" Buffy replied. "She'll just kill us off one by one until there's no one left standing between her and Elita."

"Buffy, we all understand the severity of the situation, but there must be another way," Wesley reasoned in a soothing tone, an attempt to calm the tempestuous situation.

"No," the slayer's tone was harsh and firm in her denials. "We stay, we die. Show of hands for that option."

None were raised, knowing that with her present state of mind it would be useless to try and persuade her otherwise just now.

"All right," Buffy remarked. "Nobody goes home, nobody tells anybody we're leaving. Just pack up whatever supplies we need and that's it, we're gone."

"How can all of us go?" Jenny asked.

"Glory knows about all of us," Buffy pointed. "I know it's gonna be difficult with Ellis and Tara, but we need to get out of here while we still can."

"And Joyce?" Angel asked quietly.

"I'll phone Mom," Buffy replied, "but there's no need for her to leave too, as it might give away that we're escaping sooner."

"What about wheels?" Xander asked. "I don't think everybody's gonna fit in the Xandermobile."

"Just get your stuff together," Buffy replied. "I'll handle the rest."

 


"This is terrible," a voice sighed in mild despair. I'll never be able to mend this."

Ben turned to the female demonic nun examining the remains of the dress he was now out of. "Not really my colour anyway," he remarked, sinking into a sofa.

"Oh, yes. Inappropriate humour." The lackey chuckled unconvincingly, less respectful to the inferior personality which her god was forced to coexist with. "Most amusing. I don't suppose you know what led to this sartorial tragedy."

"That's not how it works, you know that," Ben reminded her.

"Yes, of course," the minion nodded changing the tack of her quest for information, "I just thought maybe after her magnificent incandescence was returned to this ... manly and ... painfully handsome assemblage ... you might have noticed something interesting? A key in human form, perhaps? Lounging about unattended?"

"If I did, do you really think I would tell you?" Ben countered.

"Why do you insist on fighting the inevitable?" she asked. "No one can stand against her blindingly scrumptious luminescence."

"Glory," Ben corrected, tired of the sycophancy. "Her name is Glory, and she's your god, you little scab, not mine."

"With all due respect and fear of sharp objects, you exist, sir, only because of her divine greatness," the nun pointed out.

"You mean her divine failure, don't you?" Ben countered, rising from the sofa to pace the floor. "I didn't ask for any of this. I just want to be normal."

"We play the hand we're dealt," the minion mused.

"Nothing's mine, is it?" Ben remarked, despondent. "This life, this body, it's all infected. The only thing I ever cared about, she's taken away from me. You know why I wanted to be a doctor?"

"Flattering drawstring pants?" the minion tried.

"To be close to people," Ben replied. "To witness their lives and their deaths, to be there alongside them, a part of everyday humanity." He sighed. "Maybe it's the drugs."

"Drugs, sir?" the nun queried.

"Find the right combination, keep her buried where she belongs," Ben decided.

The lackey was sceptical and horrified at the idea. "Impossible! Her magnificence can never be fully contained! She is a perfect, all-encompassing light, one you should feel honoured to be bathed in."

"Oh, yeah, I'm thrilled," Ben remarked sarcastically. "Especially with the part where she gets her key back and I cease to exist."

The female demon nodded. "True, this oh-so-appealing form will of necessity be shrugged off."

"Not if I get the key first," Ben realised.

She stopped him from leaving, aware that if his idea came to fruition it could and would destroy hers. "And if you did ... what then? Could you do it? Take a human life with your own hands? Oblivion is such a small inconvenience in the service of a deity. Accept your fate. I mean, you said it yourself. This life was never really yours anyway, was it?"

"It doesn't matter how I came by it," Ben answered with conviction. "It's mine. And I plan on keeping it."


"Anybody else feel that?" Anya asked the slayerettes as they waited on the benches outside her and Xander's apartment, the warm rays of the Californian sunny weather a complete contrast to the stormy turmoil inside every one of them.

"What?" Oz asked.

"Cold draft of paralysing fear," Anya answered.

"We just need to stay calm," Giles advised.

"Calm, right," Willow mused sceptically.

"Hey, we gotta be like Sergeant Rock," Xander pointed out. "Cool and collected in the face of overwhelming odds."

"Overwhelming?" His girlfriend echoed. "How much more than whelming would that be exactly?"

"Look, everything will be all right, we just need to stay here calmly," Giles continued, trying to prevent the mutiny which was now steadily brewing within the rank and file of the slayerettes. "As soon as Buffy arrives-"

He broke off as a large, rather old, motor home braked hard in front of them.

"-we'll feel oddly worse," Giles finished.

"Just get in," Angel's voice could be heard from inside as the door swung open, his half vampire enhanced hearing missing nothing from the watcher's tones.

The slayerettes obeyed in an ominous silence, one by one picking up their stuff before entering the vehicle.


While one group of warrior were preparing to run for the hills, another were currently in the midst of an sophisticated undercover operation within the sanitised corridors of Sunnydale General Hospital.

"Sign here."

A guy in a baseball cap took the proffered pen and signed his name on the appropriate place in the discharge form.

The nurse studied the clipboard for barely a minute, accustomed to strange names like Dante and illegible scrawls, similar to the usual hieroglyphs belonging to the medical profession. "Okay, that should do it."

The guy nodded, and started to walk away, two others following him.

"See," He remarked to his companions proudly. "Did I not tell you how easy it would be for us to-"

"Hey!" The nurse cried, causing them to stop.

One of his companions began to slowly remove a dagger from his pocket, ready for the possible danger which might come.

"My pen," the nurse added.

Dante handed her the pen with a mild and he hoped disarming smile, watching her put it away and return to her station.

His companion hid his dagger inside his hooded jacket before they turned and left the hospital, rapidly.

"The trees are singing water," their rescued comrade declared as they reached their base in the forest.

His words made some sense, Dante mused silently, in metaphorical terms at least. A knight emerged from the foliage. "You have him?"

"Yes, General," Dante replied as they removed their caps in respect to his rank. "Our brother has returned to the fold."

"Welcome home, Orlando," The General remarked, placing his hands on the soldier's shoulders. "I swear by my sword your sacrifice will not go unavenged."

Orlando stared at the medal around his superior's neck, fascinated by the glint the metal gave off in the sunlight which fed through the trees of the forest. He reached out to touch it. "Shiny."

"Yes, I suppose it is," the General agreed, humouring his faithful knight.

"Pretty little girl, she's shiny too," Orlando added absently.

The General let go of his fallen soldier and turned to Dante. "Watch him, make sure he's comfortable."

"So shiny," Orlando murmured, his eyes still on the medal, but his mind far far away. "Pretty little shiny key."

"The key?" The General queried whilst he stilled in shock, his attention caught by the three seemingly innocuous words. "You've seen it?"

"Pretty ... little shiny girl," Orlando uttered.

The General and Dante stared at their comrade as they realised what his words meant. "The monks, they've made it human."

"We know the Slayer's protecting the key," Dante said slowly. "If what Orlando says is true..."

The General turned to his troops. "Prepare to advance!"

"Yes sir," his lieutenant replied.

"We end this now," the General decided.

And the knights of Byzantium marched out of the forest, in search of the key.


"Shouldn't somebody be asking, 'Are we there yet?'" Anya queried. "Isn't that what small entertaining children do?"

"It's rarely entertaining," Doyle remarked.

"That kinda only works if you know where you're going," Cordelia reminded her.

Anya turned to the driver. "Do we know where we're going yet?"

"We'd already be somewhere if Captain Slowpoke would give up the wheel," Spike growled from his place beside Tara. "Hey! Gramps! Bloody step on it!"

"Step on what?" Giles countered, having changed shifts at the wheel so Angel could check on Buffy. "I've driven tricycles with more power."

"Is anybody else queasy?" Xander asked.

His girlfriend rubbed his arm consolingly. "He doesn't travel well," she informed them. "He's like fine shrimp."

"I shoulda nicked that Porsche I had my eye on," Spike mused. "There's just enough room for me, Peaches, my girl, Elita and Buffy." He frowned as Xander attempted to glare at him. "What?"

The nightclub owner swallowed hard. "Would you give it a rest, or..."

"Or what," Spike countered mockingly. "You're gonna toss your cookies on my shoes?"

"Or you can be undead man walking," Xander replied, grabbing the chain to which his enchanted talisman was attached. "See how fast you can hitch a ride with a flaming thumb."

"Fine," Spike muttered, snatching the precious piece of jewelry away to recline in his seat. "Shrimp."

Xander gulped, then rose from his seat to join Giles in the front. "That guy is bloodsucking the last nerve right outta me."

"He's stressed about Tara," the watcher reminded him. "He's just venting his anger and worry and guilt."

"Did you ask Deadboy about Buffy?" Xander queried. "I don't know about you, but I think she's not too clear on anything else right now. I've never seen her so..." He broke off in search of the right words.

"Angel and I think that she just needs a chance to catch her breath, regroup," Giles replied. "She'll be all right."

"Yeah," Xander uttered, inwardly wondering if that were true.

The RV reached the provincial route for the neighbouring states, its withered state the only thing preventing the vehicle from resembling others out for a road trip.

"Any luck?" Jenny asked her red haired companion who was surrounding by a small collection of vital wiccan works.

"Uh, if you define luck as the absence of success, plenty," Willow replied, looking up from the spell book she was currently perusing. "There's a couple of barrier spells, but they only work on a fixed location. I haven't found anything that will work while we're still moving."

"So pretty, can I have one?" Tara asked, reaching out her hand for Elita, who shied away from the touch.

Spike reached out for the hand and gently took it in his own. "No, luv," he murmured softly, calming her.

"Anyone hungry?" Cordelia asked restlessly.

"Ooh! Snacks!" Anya cried in sudden eagerness. "The secret to any successful migration." She reached into her backpack and retrieved a frying pan and a tinned box of spam. "Who's up for some tasty fried meat products?"

Tara suddenly sobbed desperately. "All the light is gone."

Spike let go of her hands and tentatively took her into his arms. "No, shh, luv. The light's still outside, okay?"

"All dark. All dark," Tara uttered as she cried in his embrace.


At the hospital, in the mental ward, the words were echoed.

"All dark," the patients chanted again and again.

"Soon," one of them decreed.

The cry was taken up, just as before, echoing down through every patient and bed, the words and tone combining to serve as if the ward were a chantry and words prayers for souls, long since departed.

"Soon," they all chanted.

Unbeknownst to the physicians who tended over them, these were the first words of sense which these patients uttered. If they had taken care to notice, they would not be the last, only the beginning of darker acts to come.


"It's coming," a demonic nun proposed to her monastic counterpart, over a spread of Runic tablets in the main room of the sumptuous apartment occupied by their divine goddess. Her tone was almost blissful, as though the casting had foretold the certain prospect of paradise to come for her god, and by default her brother and sisters in devoted arms.

"The signs are in alignment," she continued, "and soon victory will be in our grasp. All we need do is seize the moment ... and squeeze until it bleeds."



The motor home reached the road which served for passage through one of the many large national parks which surrounded the state, a forest barrier before the deserts belonging to its neighbours beyond.

Elita summoned the nerve to disturb the slayer and her vampire. She opened the door of the small bedroom where they had been closeted all this while.

"Hey," she uttered attempting a tone of brightness. "I think Anya's gonna try to cook. Wanna come watch the tears and recriminations?"

"Maybe later," Buffy replied.

Elita nodded, made a move to leave, then came to a halt. "Thanks."

"For what?" Buffy asked.

"You know," Elita replied. "Pretty much everything."

The slayer's reply was pure sarcasm. "Yeah. I'm doing a great job."

"You are," Angel affirmed more seriously beside her.

"I'm the Slayer," Buffy replied. "The chosen one. All mythic and defender-y. Evil nasties are supposed to flee from me. Not the other way around."

"You're not fleeing," Elita remarked. "You're ... moving at a brisk pace."

"Quaintly referred to in some cultures as the big scaredy runaway," Buffy countered.

Elita closed the door and joined the couple on the bed. "It's the most amazing thing anyone's ever done for me."

"She just keeps coming," Buffy whispered. "I couldn't even tell Mom where we were going, in case....." she shuddered at the thought of what the god might do to her, as Angel wrapped an arm around her.

"I know," Elita replied. "But there's a bright side."

"There is?" Buffy sought to confirm.

"At least things can't get any crazier. Right?" Elita offered.

Whereupon arrows started flying through the window, one barely missing Buffy's head. She ducked, then glared at the key.

"You know this is your fault for saying that," she uttered before carefully turning to see who fired the weapon.

"Are those who I think they are?" Angel queried, staring at the pursuing army which he could see out of the window.

Buffy nodded. "Yep. I'll take Knights of Byzantium for five hundred." She rose from the bed and walked in the direction of the main room.

"Giles!" Angel cried as they entered the driver's area.

"I see them," Giles replied, increasing his speed.

"Bloody hell!" Spike swore as another bunch of arrows shot through the room barely missing his head.

"Elita, get down under the table," the slayer ordered.

"Horsies!" Tara cried excitedly, peering out the window.

Spike pulled her away from the window just before the riders fired more arrows, moving her head on to his lap.

"Weapons?" Wesley asked.

Angel left Buffy's side to deal out the military armament previously secured in the bags he and the slayer were carrying.

"Hello!" Spike cried. "You're driving one!"

"Don't hit the horsies!" Willow urged.

"Oh, we won't!" Buffy replied. She turned and uttered to her watcher in a voice which only he could hear. "Aim for the horsies."

Giles nodded and steered the RV in the direction of them, but the animals and their riders were well trained cavalry mounts, and deftly moved their steeds out of the way.

"Did we shake them?" Doyle asked as the pounding sound which emanated from their hooves touching the asphalt quietened a notch.

In reply the steel blade of a large sword suddenly shot through the ceiling, a hair's breath from his head.

Buffy moved from the station by her watcher to the rear of the vehicle while her mind contemplated available options.

Angel continued to look through the bag of weapons, carefully arming the slayerettes with only what they could handle.

"Stay low!" Buffy advised as the knight continued to aim his sword. "Watch out for the-" she broke off, as the weapon suddenly came at her head.

In the nick of time, Angel reached up and grabbed the blade with hands, shoving the trajectory away from his soulmate.

"Now might be a good time for something heroic," he advised her, as the swordsman above tried to wrest his weapon loose.

Buffy raised her gaze, turned round, and caught sight of a possible solution to gain some advantage. "Wes! Hatch!"

Wesley helped her climb on to the roof through the hatch in the ceiling.

Opposite her, the knight caught sight of his new foe and wrenched his weapon free, causing Buffy to flinch as she heard her boyfriend's howl of pain in response from below. She swerved her body aside then, as the knight thrust the weapon at her. She backed away from his second swing, then jumped up and kicked his legs out from under him.

The knight went down, falling backward on to the roof of the motor home, retaining hold of his weapon by sheer force of skill. Buffy mounted him, blocked another swing, then punched him until he dropped the sword.

Inside Cordelia tore a piece of cotton sheet in to sections and wrapped the ribbons over the deep sliced cuts in Angel's hands.

Above them Buffy continued to fight the knight, punching him until he blocked her fist and kicked her in the head. She fell to the side, grabbing the roof rail to prevent herself from falling. She kicked the knight with her leg, causing him to fall back, so she could rise to her feet again. She punched him again, then whirled round to deliver a kick, causing him to scream as he fell off the vehicle.

Another knight climbed up the side.

"Keep the pressure on," Cordelia advised as she tried the torn sections of sheet.

"I always do," Angel replied.

Suddenly a knight burst through the window, making a grab for Elita who frantically tried to scramble away from him.

Anya hit the crusader with the frying pan, the clash of metal upon metal emitting a violent vibrating chime.

The knight lost his grip on the ladder outside which led to the roof and fell to the hard compacted asphalt below.

"Not a piano, but hey," Anya mused in admiration of her handiwork.

On the roof, two more knights faced the slayer, one wielding an axe, the other a mace. She punched the first, kicked the second, then delivered a kick to the first. Ducking to take a blow from the second's weapon on her back, she punched him, before executing a back flip and then kicking both of them in the face.

Retrieving the sword left behind by her fight opponent, Buffy used it as a ploy to let the mace wielder wrap his chain around it then, whereupon she pulled him closer, while kicking the one with the axe away. She spun the second knight around, before kicking him in the stomach and throwing him off the side of the RV, letting the weapons go with him.

Buffy turned to her last opponent, ducking his axe swing, then kicking him in the chest, and grabbing his weapon. She hit him with her other hand, making him release the weapon. Swinging it at him to make him duck, she kicked him over the side.

Another knight was climbing the ladder to the roof, but the slayer threw her captured weapon, striking him in the chest, causing him to fall on to the ground.

Inside everyone glanced at each other as the noises from the roof quieted, inwardly wondering if it was all right to sigh in relief.

"Everyone all right?" Giles asked, taking his eyes briefly off the road.

The slayerettes nodded silently.

Giles turned back to the road, and suddenly swerved the RV, to avoid the mounted knight before him, carrying a javelin spear.

The knight threw the weapon. It shot through the window, hitting Giles in the side, impaling them. He fell forward on to the steering wheel.

"Rupert!" Jenny cried.

Buffy lost her balance on the roof as the vehicle lost its own, and jumped for the ground to prevent herself being injured. She came up from her roll in time to see the motor home fall on to its side, dust flying off the ground from the impact.


"We gotta find shelter," Xander proposed as they stumbled from the vehicle down the dirty byway.

"There's a gas station up ahead," Oz pointed out.

Two by two, couples and friends leaning on each other for support, everyone staggered up the road until they reached the building, and then walked inside.

"Careful," Buffy urged from her place by Angel.

Behind her Wesley and Doyle helped a wounded Giles inside, having freed him from the javelin spear before leaving the motor home. The others followed in twos, Anya closing the door behind them.

"Put him on the counter," the slayer ordered, before she turned to her wiccan friend. "Okay, Will?"

"I'm on it," her friend replied, setting to work on Giles' wound. Beside her, Jenny tried to calm herself and Ellis, who peeped fearfully out of his mother's arms, his dark blue eyes uncomprehending at the damage done to his father.

"Um, you have another plan, right?" Anya asked Buffy. "One that doesn't involve pointy knives and a Winnebago?"

"We'll rest here for a minute, but then we have to keep moving," Buffy replied.

"Where?" Xander asked her.

"I don't know!" Buffy shouted. "We just, can't stay here. It's too close to the wreck, we're too easy to find."

"Buffy!" Jenny cried, causing her to run over to her watcher.

"Will, how is he?" Buffy asked. "Will?"

"I think I slowed the bleeding, but..." She paused, as they took in Giles' shallow breathing, the indication of his chances for survival deadly clear.

"Okay. Okay, just-just give me a minute," Buffy murmured, trying to think.

But fate was not generous in her mercy and time allowance for the slayer today, as an arrow dipped in flames shot through a non boarded window, embedding itself in the wall behind her as she instinctively jumped aside.

"Everyone, get down!" Buffy cried.

More arrows followed the first, causing all of them run for what little cover the deserted petroleum outlet now offered.

Angel peered cautiously out of the window. "We've got company," he announced grimly as he took in the large and fiercely armed battalion of the Knights of Byzantium which had formed outside their temporary redoubt. "And they brought a crusade."

"Willow," Buffy cried. "A protection barrier would be nice."

"I'm working on it!" Her best friend replied.

The end of an axe blade suddenly broke through a wall next to Elita's head, missing the girl only just.

"Buffy!" She screamed in terror.

The slayer ran over to her, but a knight ran in through the front door, punching her aside. As she hit the floor, Angel lunged at the knight, punching him, causing the warrior to turn and raise his blade to strike.

Buffy recovered from her fall to kick the soldier who was the cause of it, then she punched him.

He kicked her back to the floor, intent on contenting her while his comrade went for the key.

Beside Elita, Wesley and Doyle punched the knight aiming to grab her, allowing for Angel to grab the girl and get her away to the centre of the room.

The slayer kicked her opponent, grabbing his weapon to twist round and flip him over her shoulder. He slipped into unconsciousness on the floor.

Buffy turned from him in time to welcome another soldier.

"The key," he commanded as if words could succeed where physical strikes had failed before.

Buffy threw the captured sword at him, making him drop his own. He lunged at her, but she hit him again, making him fall into a support pillar, unconscious as well.

"Enemies, fly and fall," Willow chanted. "Circling arms, raise a wall."

She raised her arms and a circle of light came forth from them, gradually expanding outward to encompass the whole building.


Outside, Dante hit the magical barrier with his sword in frustration as the redoubt was rendered impregnable. "They have the general. Clerics!"

Two magi came forward, raising their hands before barrier. One chanted aloud, while the other turned to his commander to relay their findings.

"Energy barrier," he reported. "A most powerful one."

"Can it be breached?" Dante asked.

"The witch's magic pales to the might of our god," the magus replied, his words almost a vow. "The infidels' wall shall tumble before us."


"Will? How long will it hold?" Buffy asked inside.

Her best friend frowned uncertainly. "Half a day maybe." She glanced at the window, seeing the priests chanting. "Or till Heckle and Jeckle punch a hole through it."

"So. What's the story with these role-playing rejects?" Spike asked from his place beside Tara.

"Let's find out," Buffy replied.

She tried the last solider to a pillar in the rear of the building, while Angel and Spike came to stand behind her in case the warrior thought to escape.

Spike frowned at the guy. "You sure Scarface here can habla the English?"

"He understands me." Buffy remarked sternly. "Don't you?"

"You were warned we would return, Slayer," the knight replied.

"Took you long enough," Buffy commented. "What are you supposed to be, some kind of chief?"

"General," he sneered.

"General," Buffy mused. "In charge of what, getting captured?"

"You do not frighten me, child," the knight replied. He turned, directing his stare at Elita who flinched under his penetrating gaze. "The instrument of chaos must be destroyed."

The slayer reached forward and slapped his face, bringing his gaze back on her. "Look at her that way again, and she will be the last thing you ever see." She warned him.

"As I've been told, you protect the key of the beast," the General remarked.

"It's not that simple," Buffy objected.

"Yes," the General countered. "The key has been transformed, given breath, given life. Yet, this makes no difference. The key is the link. The link must be severed. Such is the will of god."

"She doesn't remember anything about being this key you're all looking for," Buffy remarked. "The only thing that she remembers is the brief life she has spent in this town as part of my family. What kind of god would demand her life for something that she has no control over? We are not your enemy. Tell your men to stand down."

"No," the General refused.

"It is not her fault! She's human now!" Buffy yelled.

"The key is too dangerous to be allowed to exist," the General informed her. "No matter what form it has been pressed into."

"I will not let anyone tell me-" Buffy broke off her threat as a sound drifted from the behind them. She turned and together with Spike and Angel, walked to where the rest of the slayerettes were quartered, to find Tara struggling in Willow's grasp.

"Shh, shh, shh," Willow urged the girl, trying to quiet her.

"What happened?" Spike asked crouching before them.

"I don't know, she just went nuts," Anya replied.

"Time! Time, time!" Tara whimpered, breaking free to run to the boarded windows, trying to claw the board away.

Spike ran after her, trying to pull her away, eventually taking hold of her waist, swinging her into his arms so he could return her to the others.

"We have to do something!" Willow cried. "She, she can't stay this way, Buffy!"

"Time... time... time..." Tara continued to chant.


At the hospital in the mental ward, others took up the chant, rendering their room to same status as it was before.

"Time. Time."

"No," the nurse protested as she entered the room to discover the source of the noise, misunderstanding their words. "It's not time for your meds, just lie back-"

One patient tore free of his restraints, freeing himself from his bed.

"Doctor! Doctor McCarthy!" the nurse called out for assistance.

"Time, time, time," the patients shouted as one by one they tore at their restraints, freeing themselves from the beds.

The nurse was struck down by one as they left her behind.

Slowly they wandered towards the door, still muttering the same word over and over again, the word which signalled the start of things to come.

"Time, time, time."


"It's time. It's time." Orlando cried, proving just as difficult as his fellow sufferers.

"No, no, shh," Dante turned to him. "There's nothing to fear, my brother. "The beast may have taken your mind, but I swear to you, she will never know the taste of your heart."

He took his comrade in arms towards him, held him close, until the dagger in his hand had finished taking his life. He looked to the priests as the body slid to the ground. They were still chanting from their place before the barrier, which looked no different as to when they had begun.

"Clerics!" He cried. "I want the witch's barrier down. NOW!"


"I'm sorry," Buffy uttered to her watcher inside.

"For what?" Giles asked her.

"We should have stayed," Buffy replied. "If we had, none of this would have happened."

"Don't," he brushed her apology away. "What you did was necessary. What I've always admired."

"Running away?" Buffy queried.

"Being able to place your heart above all else," Giles replied. "I'm so proud of you, Buffy. You've come so far. You're everything a Watcher, everything I could have hoped for."

Buffy clutched his hand, watching worried as the only father she had ever known closed his eyes. She did not want it to be for the last time.

"Willow," she cried, a plan forming in her mind. "Open a door."

Her best friend glanced from her to Angel, who nodded his head in consent, then chanted softly, opening a hole in the barrier.

The slayer and her angel walked outside, the latter carrying a hastily erected white flag consisting of a sheet wrapped round a sword.

"Parley!" He cried, invoking the ancient rules of sieges, his voice carrying ahead of his beloved, who came to a halt before the knights.

Dante held up a hand, bringing his comrades to a halt. "Speak."

"One of my friends was hurt when you attacked us," Buffy stated.

"And ten of my men are dead," Dante replied. "Honourable men." He drew his sword. "Shall we balance the scale?"

"Will you let someone come and help him or not?" Buffy asked.

"Give quarter to an agent of the beast?" Dante asked her. "What madness would move me to such action?"

"Because if you are servants of a holy war," Angel remarked, "you should understand something of the rules, if you're as honourable as you think you are. And as you seem to believe your cause is."

"We have your General," Buffy added. "He's alive....... for the moment." She let the pause sound ominous.

"One man," Dante conceded.


"You, uh, forgot to mention the costume party outside," Ben remarked as he entered the building, attired in scrubs.

"Sorry," Buffy replied. "I know you're fired and everything, and I could have called Dr Byrne, but I didn't want my Mom to worry. Or rouse questions I don't have time to answer right now."

"No, it's okay," Ben assured her. "I may be lax when it comes to times, but I still know how to save lives."

"You better do," Buffy replied, gesturing to the man before her. "Because if he dies, a lot of people are gonna be upset."

Ben surveyed the wound, before raising his eyes to study the rest of them. Then silently he got to work.


"All right, I think I got him stabilised, but there's a lot of damage," he reported some time later. "We need to get him out of here."

"Well, I think the guys with the pointy swords kinda have other ideas," Buffy replied.

"Don't they always," Ben mused.

"Look, I know this must seem extra 'Outer Limits' to you," Buffy began in an effort to explain her strange life, but he shook his head.

"This? Naah. I've seen things you wouldn't believe. You know, emergency room, full moon on a Saturday night."

"Look, if this gets too weird, just tell me," Buffy assured him. "I'll understand."

"Don't worry about me," Ben replied. "I won't leave until I've worn out my welcome."

Buffy walked away, almost falling into Angel's arms. Silently he gathered her close, kissing her hair as she clutched at his chest. There were no words needed between them, just a language of touch and smell which needed no translation. Their souls understood each other intimately, kindred spirits in every way. She breathed deeply, drinking him in, gathering strength his love always gave her.

She raised her head from his chest, and he bent his own, exchanging a solemn and devout kiss. Tenderly she took his hands from behind her back and kissed the healing wounds across his palms, her lips brushing the cold metal of his claddagh.

Angel clutched her chin with one of them, raising her face towards him. "Let's see what we can find out from the General," he uttered.


"Poor frightened girl," the General sneered as the couple stood before him; Buffy in front, Angel behind. "You've no idea what you've gotten yourself into."

Buffy folded her arms over her chest. "Why don't you tell me?"

"Would it make a difference?" He countered. "What do you know of the beast?"

"Strong. Fast. Hell god," Buffy replied.

"From a dimension of unspeakable torment," the General added.

"A demon dimension," Buffy said calmly. "I know. She ruled with two other hell gods, right?"

"Along with the beast they were a triumvirate of suffering and despair," the General continued. "Ruling with equal vengeance. But the beast's power grew beyond even what they could conceive. As did her lust for pain and misery. They looked upon her, what she had become, and trembled."

"A god afraid?" Buffy queried.

The General nodded. "Such was her power. They feared she would attempt to seize their dimension for herself, and decided to strike first. A great battle erupted. In the end, they stood victorious over the beast, barely. She was cast out. Banished to this lower plane of existence, forced to live and eventually die trapped within the body of a mortal, a newborn male, created as her prison. That is the beast's only weakness."

"Kill the man and the god dies," Buffy realised.

The General inclined his head in agreement. "Unfortunately, the identity of the human vessel has never been discovered."

"I don't understand," Buffy remarked. "Now, I've seen Glory. Not a whole lot going on in the hairy chest department."

"You have seen a glimpse of the true beast," the General replied. "Her power was too great to be completely contained. She's found a way to escape her mortal prison for brief periods, before her energies are exhausted and she's forced back into her living cell of meat and bone."

"What about me?" A voice asked, causing Buffy to turn, as Elita joined them. "What about the key?"

"Elita," Buffy warned.

But the young girl shook her head. "I want to know."

The General stared at her. "The key is almost as old as the beast itself. Where it came from, how it was created, the deepest of mysteries. All that is certain is that its power is absolute. Countless generations of my people have sacrificed their lives in search of it, to destroy it before its wrath could be unleashed."

"But the monks found it first," Elita gathered.

"Yes, and hid it with their magicks," the General replied.

"Why didn't they just destroy it?" Buffy asked. "If the key is as dangerous as-"

The General interrupted her. "Because they were fools. They thought they could harness its power for the forces of light. They failed, and paid with their blood."

"What do I do?" Elita asked. "What was I created for?"

"You were created to open the gates that separate dimensions," the General replied. "The beast will use your power to return home and seize control of the hell she was banished from."

Buffy laughed. "That's it? That's Glory's master plan; to go home?"

Her hostage frowned at her. "You misunderstand. Once the key is activated, it won't just open the gates to the beast's dimension. It's going to open all the gates. The walls separating realities will crumble. Dimensions will bleed into each other. Order will be overthrown and the universe will tumble into chaos, all dark, forever." His gaze fell on the key. "That is what you were created for."

Elita turned and walked out of the room.

"Go," Angel urged his beloved. "I'll watch him."

Buffy placed her hand on his chest in silent gratitude, then followed the girl into the centre of the room.

"You think it's true, what he said?" Elita asked her.

"I don't know," Buffy replied.

"Destroyer of the universe," Elita mused. "I should have killed myself when I slashed my wrists," she laughed harshly.

"No," Buffy grabbed her hands. "It's not you. You know that."

"But it's in me isn't it? It's inside me," Elita countered. "What are we gonna do?"

The slayer gathered her close. "I won't let anything happen to you. I promise."

 




"Wriggling!" Tara cried in the main room.

"Come on, Tara, luv, you have to eat something," Spike urged.

"Want me to try?" Anya asked him.

"I don't know," Spike mused. "I'm getting used to picking fruit out of my hair."

Across the room, Jenny looked up at Ben as he injected more fluids into Giles' arm. "How is he?"

"I'd feel better if he was in the hospital," Ben replied. "So would he," he added, before walking away.

Suddenly he froze, putting a hand to his forehead. "You have to let me out," he remarked suddenly, causing everyone to stare at him.

"Ben?" Elita queried.

"You don't understand, I gotta get out, open a door now!" He yelled.

Angel rushed from his station by the hostage. "What happened?"

"I-I don't know, he just freaked out." Elita replied.

"Let me out!" Ben cried.

"Okay, Will, open a door," Buffy ordered.

"No! Ha!" Ben screamed.

Then suddenly Glory was there.

"Well, what do you know," she mused, looking at her surroundings. "Little Ben finally did something right."

"The beast," the General cried.

"Hey, it's Gregor," Glory remarked. She grabbed a hubcap and threw it. The metallic disc flew across the room into the General's chest, killing him.

"Now it's not," Glory declared.

Angel and Spike rushed at Glory with a yell, Xander right behind them, aiming for a pre-emptive strike.

Glory hit the souled vampire in the chest, the force of the impact sending him backward into the other two, who crashed into the other members of the slayerettes, rendering them powerless to assist.

Willow began enchanting, hurriedly trying her teleport spell.

Buffy rushed at the hell god as the boys and the rest of the slayerettes began to rise from the floor.

Seconds later she flew back into her best friend, knocking the breath out of them both, ceasing the attempt at witch craft.

Her enemies incapacitated, Glory turned and grabbed Elita.

"Buffy!" girl cried as she was swept into the god's embrace.

The slayer struggled to rise from the floor as Glory dragged Elita out of the building.

Outside the magical barrier was no match for her free arm, as she punched a hole through it, pulling Elita through with her.

Behind them the barrier began to close as the slayer emerged from the building.

"Elita!!" Buffy cried as she hit the barrier too late to break through the temporary breach created by the god. She watched them go, then turned round and walked back inside. "Willow! Get it down, now!"

"Hear, hear my plea," Willow began. "Circling arm protecting me."

The barrier down now, Buffy turned round and ran back outside, until the sight before her caused her to come suddenly to a halt.

Angel and Spike who were the first of the slayerettes to catch up with her, came to a stop behind her, likewise froze, as they took in the horrific view.

Around them corpses lay upon the ground, every one a knight of the Byzantium order, fallen soldiers killed where they stood, as though a plague of poisonous gas had conquered them, rendering their besieging force null and void.

"We have to," Willow uttered as she ran outside, the rest of her sentence dying from her lips as she took in the scene.

"The beast," one still dying soldier declared with his final breath.

Angel pointed at the car parked nearby. "The car. Get the keys," he ordered one of the stunned slayerettes.

"Buffy!" Willow cried. "Buffy, we have to find Elita. We, we can't let Glory-" she broke off as her best friend sank to the ground.

"Buffy?" Angel queried as he turned his gaze upon her. "Buffy!" He cried as he took in the thousand yard stare.

"Buffy, you have to get up! We need you!" Willow cried as they rushed towards her.

"Buffy!" Angel cried, kneeling before her. "Please, Buffy......"

It was to no avail. The slayer was lost.

To Be Continued In
Humanity.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Dialogue has been taken from the original episode; The Weight of the World, and I have altered the plot to make Angel take on Willow's role, as I felt he was more suited, because he is Buffy's soulmate. I have also changed aspects of Buffy's dreams during her catatonic state, because I made the point of replacing Dawn with Elita. Plus, I assume because Spike remembers about Ben, that Angel and Doyle do too, because of their demonic halves. Enjoy.

 

Humanity.

While in the world of the slayer everything was steadily travelling towards hell, in the world of the god, she who is all divine, the deity called Glorificus, the apartment her mortal body once owned, was hurriedly being emptied of her contents in preparation for her return to her home world.

"Quickly, quickly!" Murk commanded to fellow minions. "Already we're behind schedule! Someone's bound for a beheading." He walked into one of the many walk in closets belonging to their most sacred mistress, adding to himself in a lower tone, "let's make sure it's not me."

"Why do we remain when our moment of triumph lies so close at hand?" Gronx asked him, while she packed the clothes away.

Murk continued in his lowered tones. "The glorious one, having acquired much in this world, doesn't exactly travel light."

Together the monastic demons espied around a corner in to the living area of their deity's apartment, staring at the sight of their holy entity as she awaited for her tailors to finish their latest masterpiece.

"Hey! Minions, I can hear you," Glory remarked. "Godlike ears don't miss much, you know what I'm saying," she glared daggers at them. "Come here."

"'twas he who blasphemed, your magnificence," Gronx protested.

"Spurred on by treacherous urging!" Murk added, only to be hit by his companion.

To their surprise, Glory was all that is merciful. "Guys! I'm not gonna kill you." She frowned at the novelty of such a phrase being uttered by her mouth. "Not in the mood. What do you think that's about?"

"In mercy does your power lie?" Gronx suggested.

"No, brainless, in torture, death and chaos does my power lie," Glory corrected the lackey, still frowning of her sudden lack of enthusiasm for all of the above. "So tell me, why am I not popping your head like a zit right now?"

Murk and Gronx glanced at each other, received no answer, then returned their humble eyes to their superior queen, presenting their incompetence before her magnificence.

Glory brushed the qualm aside. "Maybe I'm just hungry."

Murk leapt on the proposal. "Yes, we shall fetch a, a lovely-"

His benevolent deity forestalled him. "No, I'm not hungry." She let go of the garment her tailors were still hard at work on perfecting, revealing a typical little black dress beneath. "Uhh!" She exhaled, stepping down from the dais. "Just a little tight in the skin is all. I've been waiting an eternity - well, 25 human years - and it all comes down to tonight."

"The portal shall open," Gronx uttered as if the words were a prayer.

"And the great Glorificus shall return," Murk added, as if the words were a certainty.

"To the hell I came from," Glory finished. "Where I'm gonna rain down more super-sized portions of slaughter, mayhem and bloodshed than any of you scabs can even dream about." She halted her restless pacing, sinking on to a sofa. "So how come I ain't happy? Got everything I ever wanted ... still, something's off." She exercised her wrist a few times, testing the joint. "I don't know. What do you think?"

Her question was not directed to the lackeys, who stood before her, equally confused at this puzzlement of their omniscient god. It was directed to the other woman in the room, the one who did not belong in this world just as much as the god who had asked the question.

The one sitting bound and gagged across from her.

Elita.


At the abandoned gas station, occupied by the slayerettes, a chipped and charmed vampire entered the once shop floor, wiping his hands clean with a dish cloth.

"Better part of a century spent in delinquency just paid off," he remarked to everyone in the room. "Hot wired Ben's auto," he added in explanation. "Who's for getting the hell out of here?"

Angel did not need to glance around the room to gain consensus. "All in favour, let's do it," he replied. He did turn to Giles, surveying his bandaged injuries. "You good to go?"

The Watcher was putting up his stiff upper lip. "Oh, don't worry about me. How's Buffy?"

"The same," Angel replied, his eyes falling on his beloved, who was under the constant gaze of her two best friends. "Still."

"Too still," Xander remarked.

"It's been almost a half an hour," Willow added.

Spike's gaze moved from his love to his sire's love. "The Slayer's gonna be all right, won't she?" He asked.

"You should try it again, Will," Angel advised.

"All right," the witch replied, "but ... I'm not even sure she's, you know ... really in there."

"Try," Xander urged.

Willow stepped forward towards the slayer, her figure slightly bent in order to meet her best friend's sightless gaze. "Can you hear me? Buffy!"

The blond haired girl that was the slayer, sat upon the floor of the abandoned gas station, her legs and arms folded, lotus style.

"Buffy!" Willow tried again, raising her voice a further decibel.

Her eyes were glassy, dazed, the mind behind them locked in a world of her own traumatised nightmares.

"Buffy?" Willow uttered softly, hope dying that her friend would respond.

Silence.

"Buffy!" Spike tried.

Still no response.

"She can't just be brain-dead," Spike remarked, earning a glare from his sire. "I mean ... she's still Buffy, somewhere in there, right?"

"She has to be," Angel uttered, his tone not just a prayer, but a certainty that if the unthinkable became reality, someone was for a beheading; Angelus style.

"Come on," Xander said, attempting to establish some control of the situation, "we're not gonna get Elita back by sitting around here."

"You're not gonna get Elita back any way you slice it, Harris," Spike replied. "It's for Buffy to decide."

The boy scoffed at him. "Good, panic. That oughta help."

"We should move her," Willow proposed. "Unless we shouldn't. Should we?"

"Couldn't that make it worse?" Anya queried. "I think I read that somewhere."

"Only if she has broken bones," Cordelia informed the former vengeance demon. "But she did fall to the ground pretty hard," she murmured doubtfully.

"I am so large with not knowing," Xander added.

"It's impossible to know for sure," Giles judged. "Loosing Elita, after all that Buffy's been through ... I think it's pushed her too far into some sort of catatonia."

"You don't need a diploma to see that," Spike replied. "Snap her out of it," he proposed, walking towards the slayer. He clasped her shoulders and shook her. "Buffy!" He cried. "Oi, rise and shine, love!"

"Spike..." Anya began as everyone watched him with a mixture of anxiety concerning his actions, and hope that they might succeed where all others had failed.

"Come on, people," Spike replied. "Girl's endowed with Slayer strength. It's hardly the time to get dainty. Buffy!" He shook her harder.

Xander ran a hand through his hair in frustration. "We tried that!"

Spike slapped the slayer's face. Hard.

Barely a second later he recoiled from the pain his chip sent to his nerves. "Ow!" He growled, his hands going to his temple.

"We didn't try that," Anya reminded them.

Angel pulled his grandchilde away. "Are you insane?" he asked him. "We could be dealing with neurological damage here. You want to kill her?"

"We have to do something," Spike replied. "I can't just sit here watching. You waste time with kid gloves. I'm willing to wager, when all is said and done, Buffy likes it rough."

His sire saw red at that, punching him in the face. Spike returned the favour, while Xander leapt forward to defend his best friend too, only for Willow to forestall him.

"Separate," she uttered, and an invisible barrier magically appeared between the two vampires, forcing them apart.

Everyone turned to the red head in surprise, both at the order and the strength of the magic behind it. Giles and Jenny in particular carried concerned expressions in their faces, as if neither had realised the consequences behind Willow's recent magical torture of Glory until this moment.

"Buffy's out," Willow said, directing her comments at Angel, Spike and Xander. "Glory has Elita. Sometime real soon, she's gonna use Elita to tear down the barrier between every dimension there is. So if you two wanna fight, do it after the world ends, okay?"

Angel nodded, while Xander stared at Spike. The vampire met his glare with one of his own, before going over sit by his girlfriend, who had retreated into herself for a while too.

Willow spoke again, this time more quietly and with authority. "All right. First we head back to Sunnydale. Xander will take Giles, Jenny and Ellis to a hospital. Cordelia and Doyle will be looking after Tara. Wesley and Spike, you find Glory. Check her apartment, see if she's still there." She paused to direct the full force of her intent to the chipped vampire. "Try anything stupid, like payback, and I will get Very Cranky." She turned to survey the gang. "Everyone clear?"

Cautiously, Anya raised her hand.

"Anya," Willow uttered, inviting her to speak.

"Um ... w-what will you, Oz and Angel do?" she asked.

"We'll help Buffy," Oz replied.

"Okay then," Anya agreed.

"The world is spinning," Tara cried joyfully, causing Spike to glance at her in concern, along with everyone else.

Angel and Willow walked over to the couple as she continued to speak, while Xander and Anya began helping Giles down from the table he was resting on.

"Straight to a new day!" Tara cried. "Big day. Big, big day."

Spike gently wrapped his arms around her. "Shh, shh," he hushed, making sure she was okay before turning to Willow and Angel.

"Uh ... Will?" He queried. "Now, uh, don't turn me into a horned toad for asking, but ... what if we come across Ben?"

The redhead frowned. "I-I don't think a doctor's what Buffy needs right now."

"Well, yeah, especially not one who also happens to be Glory," Spike added in agreement, his grandsire nodding.

Giles frowned. "What do you mean?"

Angel turned to him. "You know. Ben is Glory."

Now it was Willow's turn to become confused. "You mean ... Ben's with Glory?"

"'With' in what sense?" Xander asked.

"They're working together?" Anya queried.

Spike shook his head. "No. No. Ben is Glory. Glory's Ben. They're one and the same."

Confused, the slayerettes glanced at each other.

"When did all this happen?" Cordelia asked.

"Not one hour ago, Delia!" Doyle replied. "Right here, before your very eyes! Ben came, he turned into Glory, snatched the kid, and pfft! Vanished, remember?"

Spike was frowning too, but at their confusion. "You do remember...?" He paused, wondering. "Is everyone here very stoned?"

The slayerettes continued to remain befuddled.

"Ben! Glory!" Spike cried. "He's a doctor, she's the beast. Two entirely separate entities sharing one body. Like a bloody sitcom. Surely you remember."

Enlightenment began to dawn on Xander. "So you're saying ... Ben and Glory..."

"Have a connection," Anya finished.

"Yes, obviously, but what kind?" Giles queried.

Spike laughed, causing Doyle and Angel to glance at him. "Oh, I get it," he said. "That's very crafty. Glory's worked the kind of mojo where anyone who sees her little presto-change-o instantly forgets. And us, including yours truly, being somewhat other than human ... stands immune."

Willow frowned as she came to the realisation. "So ... Ben and Glory ... are-are the same person?"

Xander followed her, his words slowly arriving at a conclusion. "Glory can turn into Ben, and Ben turns back into Glory."

"And anyone who sees it instantly forgets," Anya added.

Spike sighed in relief. "Kewpie doll for the lady."

"Excellent," Giles uttered, calling their attention back to him. "Now. Do we suspect there may be some kind of connection between Ben and Glory?"

Everyone turned to Angel, Doyle and Spike, eager for illumination.

Chipped vampire, half vampire and half Bracken groaned in frustration.


In the world of Glorificus, scenes had altered, moving subjects, servants and pilgrims to a large warehouse, where the latter were hard at work, building the machine required for the hell god's return to her home world.

The doors opened, causing the workers, once ordinary citizens of Sunnydale, previously patients of the mental ward at Sunnydale General, to look up, and come to a halt, as their god entered the facility. She was followed by her minions and, miracle of miracles, the key!

"The key. The key," a welder cried.

Elita, dragged by Glory, turned to the man, catching sight of his face below the raised protective mask. She recognised him as being the first of those who identified her as something not belonging to this world.

"The key. The key. The key," more workers cried.

Glory and her retinue headed to the office at the back of the warehouse. The god deposited the key to her world in the hands of the monastic lackeys, her temper perilously short.

"Unbelievable how annoying those groupies can be," she sighed.

Murk endeavoured to rescue them from their deity's most holy wrath. "Uh, they merely sense that tonight at last, the dimensional portal shall open."

Elita flinched, shying away from the priest who started to adorn her with ceremonial paint, but the bonds securing her hands and feet could not be resisted, forcing an unnatural surrender.

"Ushering in the long and bloody reign of the great..." Gronx trailed off her words of praise failed to keep the god's attention.

Glory stared at the now chanting priest. "What's he doing?"

The priest ceased his chanting to explain. "I must anoint the key."

"Really don't," Glory objected. Go."

Her bishop faltered in confusion. "But-"

Glory yelled at all him. "Out! Get out, get out!"

Murk rushed forward, ushering the holy man out of the office. He turned in time to see his god, she who is divine, retrieve a rag from the desk, and proceed to wipe the key clean.

"You know, you recapture your godhood and unleash Armageddon, all of a sudden everybody wants to be a part of the inner circle," Glory mused. She licked the cloth with her tongue and pressed it upon the key's forehead once more.

Elita shied away in disgust.

"You okay?" Glory asked her softly.

"I wanna go home," Elita pleaded.

"Sweetie ... ohh..." Glory exhaled almost blissfully, before taking a chair before the young girl. "You're about to."

Elita looked up at the hell god hopefully.

"Not that fake strange suburban nightmare the monks cooked up for you," Glory continued, destroying that hope. "Why did a life with a slayer and two vampires scream normal to them!" she shook her head. "I mean your real home. As the key! You fit the lock. Well, it's like a lock. Hey!" she patted the girl's knee. "You want a pizza?"

Elita sniffed, trying to stop her tears. "No."

"Pillow?" Glory asked. Receiving no reply, she glanced around the room, fixing on the television set. "I don't know if this thing gets cable. Doubtful."

Sobbing was the first reply, followed by two simple words which carried so much power and meaning. "Please. Stop."

"You nervous?" Glory asked her gently.

Elita could not contain her grief. "Yes."

The hell god smiled at her. "I know how you feel. It is your last night."

Elita's eyes widened in horror.

Glory ignored the emotion behind the gaze. "As, you know a human." She picked up the girl's wrist and shook it. "This body ... it's just a rental, Elita. Being human? It's like a costume for girls like you and me. Being something else, that's what we are."

"Don't," Elita uttered, abruptly calm and stern.

Glory continued to smile. "What?"

"Don't call me Elita," she ordered.

The hell god laughed, letting go of her hand. "Huh. Wow. You know, that actually hurt my feelings."

Suddenly afraid of what she might do, Elita apologised. "I'm sorry."

Glory raised her hand, forestalling her. "Not the point." She rose from her seat and began to pace, worrying her prisoner further.

"I'm just thinking, here I am trying to make you feel better, when comforting others ... not part of my life." Glory frowned. "And I'm doing it, so I can stop ... feeling so ...um ..." she paused, snapping her fingers, at a loss. "Help me out."

Elita stilled, a candle of hope beginning to flicker into life deep within her. "Guilty?"

"Guilty," Glory echoed. Suddenly she laughed. "That's it!" she laughed again, relieved at the revelation. Then abruptly another perspective was realised. "But I'm not supposed to feel guilty. I'm not supposed to feel anything. I'm, I'm ... I'm a god. I'm above it. I'm," she paused, glancing at her prisoner. "You."

The candle within Elita blew out again as the god strode over to her.

"You did this to me, didn't you?" Glory accused her. "Some sort of spell, you've been hanging with the wicca, you could have-," she paused, enlightened. "But no. It's not magic. It's something else. Still, it is you doing this."

Elita shook her head. "I ... I'm not doing anything. I swear."

"We'll see," Glory remarked. She walked to the door, opening it.

Monastic lackeys awaited eagerly outside, ready to do her bidding.

Glory's eyes glared at her key. "Anoint this thing now!"

The priest returned to his previous task of painting and chanting, Murk and Gronx following him inside, waiting for their deity's instructions.

"Know what they're all chanting for out there, Elita?" Glory asked her. "Blood. 'Cause we found out your blood is the key to the key! All I gotta do is bleed you dry, the portal opens up, and I can go home! So knock yourself out, girlfriend. Make me feel bad as you can." She bent her mortal body, meeting the frightened girl's eyes. "'Cause tomorrow ... you bleed, little girl."

Her words were soft, but they carried all the deadly intent of a benevolent dictator. Elita flinched from them, inwardly wondering what was going to happen to her. She feared being killed, she feared being rescued, having witnessed what the god did to the knights of the Byzantium. She would hate being the cause of any deaths, especially those who had housed her, cared for her, welcomed her into their family. Just as much as she hated being the indirect cause of the insanity being visited on Sunnydale's citizens like a plague. She wondered what would have happened if the slayer had never rescued her from Harmony, or if she had not sought her help that night when she slashed her wrists. Would the blood have drained out of her, opening a portal to Glory's home world in the second floor of the Crawford Mansion? Or would she have simply died, putting an end to all of the god's hopes, and the slayer's troubles at the same time? Elita doubted that it would have stopped Glory. Judging from what she knew of her, the god would probably razed the town to the ground anyway. Still, death was something she contemplated now, wondering if her suicide would prevent the hell god from unleashing Armageddon. She was going to die anyway, that much was certain.

The question was, could she save the world by doing so?


"You sure you know what you're doing?" Anya asked Willow.

Inside her and Xander's apartment, the former vengeance demon now reformed devoutly American woman watched the wiccan taking candles out of a small leather bag, putting them on a table.

Willow answered her a little uncertain. "I think so. I don't know. It's ... not exactly well-explored territory, but ... I gotta try."

"A spell like this could be really dangerous for Buffy," Anya pointed out. "And you," she added in warning.

"Time ... oh, time is coming," Tara murmured dreamily, causing them to glance at her.

Cordelia returned from making a drink for their friend to sit beside her and Doyle, her hand going out to the former, comforting her.

"Shh. It's okay," she uttered, "Spike will be back soon.."

"How long do you think this will take?" Doyle asked.

Willow shrugged. "I'm not sure. Spike gave me her medication before he when to find Glory's whereabouts. Half a pill every two hours keeps her mellow, he said."

"You think you'll be gone more than two hours?" Anya asked.

The wiccan refused to answer that directly. "Wish me luck."

"Okay," Anya replied. She punched the redhead on her arm. "Good luck!"

"Thanks," Willow uttered, accepting the words if not the forced enthusiasm behind them. She gathered up the stuff from the table and walked towards the bedroom.

"Good luck," Anya, Cordelia and Doyle uttered softly.

Willow opened the door and entered the room, closing it behind her. She spared a glance for the souled half human vampire who rose from the bed the minute the door moved, offering a reassuring smile but failing in the attempt.

Angel watched her as she placed a candle either side of the bed, lighting the wicks. She put a further two candles on another small table in the room, lightning them as well. Finally he spoke. "You're not doing this, Willow."

"I have to, Angel," she replied, gazing at him. "Elita needs Buffy. And Buffy would hate herself if she was unable to save her."

"I know," Angel replied. "But you're still not doing it," he added.

"Then what do we do?" Willow asked him.

"I'm doing it," Angel answered.

 




Angel turned slowly, careful to take in every facet of his surroundings, knowing that even the smallest detail would have some bearing on his beloved's safe return to the world. He found himself surprised by the moment in her life which she had chosen to recall and remain in, for it was a time he knew almost as well her, though from another perspective.

It felt surreal, seeing his younger self parked outside in a battered Chevy Impala, hiding from the deadly glare of the sun, his tortured gaze fixed on the young girl who was to become his saviour. Angel could remember that day just as vividly as his love did, for it marked the moment when their lives changed forever.

He turned from staring at his past self, to the vision he was gazing upon; the small blond slip of a girl sitting on the steps in front of her school, sucking a lollipop. Six months younger than when he met her, dressed to the nines of fashion which every member of the popular set aspired to, yet infinitely beautiful in his eyes.

The blond girl removed her lollipop, and greeted him. "Hello, Angel."

"Hello, Buffy," he answered back.


Spike vented his anger on the front door to Glory's apartment, kicking the barrier off it's hinges and against the wall with a vengeance which made Wesley flinch, inwardly wondering if he had managed to retrieve a stake from the weapons chest at 1902 Crawford Street. The mansion was still surrounded by scaffolds, hurried employed by his firm before he joined the fleeing slayerettes, thinking at the time that one day they would be able to return.

He just had not imagined it would be like this.

Spike put a cigarette in his mouth, cupping his hands around the nicotine stick and his lighter for a moment, before raising his head to examine the room.

"Runes," Wesley remarked, pointing at the circle of twigs and tablets which lay upon the floor. "A casting for foreseeing the future," he added knowingly as he studied the layout.

His smoking companion ignored him for the moment, heading for an arched doorway beneath the stairs. When he failed to return, Wesley followed him.
Spike turned on the bulb which lit the room from darkness. He stilled as he caught sight of the simple, Spartan design, a complete contrast to the luxury which attired the rest of the building. A unmade bed, a small lamp upon a bedside table, some books. A set of blue scrubs hanging against the wall, identity badge attached.

Wesley frowned. "So is Ben connected to Glory in some way?"

 


"What are you doing here?" Buffy asked her soulmate.

Angel smiled at her kindly. "Actually, I'm, looking for you," he replied.

"You've found me," she pointed out, her logic unassailable.

"Buffy ... what are you doing here?" Angel asked her.

"I like it here," she replied, sounding very young.

And very lost. His heart ached to see her looking so beautiful, yet so lost. He knelt on the steps before her. "You know we need you. You have to come out."

"Why?" She asked him.

"To be with your friends," Angel replied. "The people who loved you."

"It's a big day for me," Buffy remarked.

Angel nodded. "I know."

"Buffy Summers?" A voice asked, causing Angel to turn round.

A man was standing before his love, middle-aged, English, attired in a tweed suit which covered his portly figure.

Angel rose from the steps as Buffy transformed into the fifteen year old girl ignorant of what was about to come.

"Yeah?" she replied. "Hi! What?"

"I need to speak with you," the man remarked.

Angel watched as Buffy's faced acquired a worried frown. "You're not from Bullock's, are you?" She asked. "'Cause I-I meant to pay for that lipstick."

"There isn't much time," the man continued. "You must come with me. Your destiny awaits."

Buffy shook her head. "I don't have a destiny. I'm destiny-free, really."

The man remained unmoved. "Yes, you have. You are the Chosen One. You alone can stop them."

"Who?" Buffy asked.

"The vampires," the man answered.

Angel watched his beloved, watched the Chevy Impala his younger self watched the scene from, as Buffy exhaled in confusion. Her whole life, no their whole lives, were about to change, and neither of them had any idea what was to come. He wondered why she wanted to stay in this moment forever, and feared the reason why.

A sound caused him to turn round. Abruptly, he found himself somewhere else, and another time.

They were in the Magic Box; seemingly alone. Angel watched his beloved, her long blond hair free from adornment, her top sleeveless and her skirt mid length, as she carried a book to the shelves, put the leather bound volume back in its place, paused for a moment, then walked away.

He turned to ask her younger shelf why, only to find his surroundings altered again. This time he was standing before a open fire at night.

What was significant about these two moments?


Giles struggled up from his bed at Sunnydale General, one hand on his bandaged wound, the other in his jacket. "Uh, can you, uh..."

Before he could finish, Xander stepped forward and helped him put the jacket on. He assisted him up from the bed, then, together with Jenny and Ellis, they exited the room.

"How you doing?" Xander asked him.

"It only hurts while I answer pointless questions," Giles replied. "Where's Buffy?"

"Willow's on it. Or Angel's in it. They're working some spell, trying to reach Buffy psychically."

"He' gone into Buffy's mind?" Jenny sought to confirm.

Xander nodded. "Pretty tricky stuff."

Giles was concerned. "It's extraordinarily advanced. Um, I was thinking we should check on Glory's victims while ... we're here."

"Oh, the mental ward?" Xander queried. "I've already been. The vegetable section's closed. Nobody there. It's like they all just got up and walked away."

They turned the corner, to find Wesley and Spike waiting for them.

"Checked out Glory's flat," the latter remarked. "Looks like the great one has scampered."

"We found the remains of a runic casting on the floor, but that was about it," Wesley added.

"Gone to, perform her ritual with Elita and leaving us entirely clueless," Giles mused.

"Not entirely," Spike replied, causing them to look at him. "I know this bloke. Well, not so much a bloke so much as a demon. But still, bookish. All tuned in to the nastier corners of this our magic world." He took out another cigarette. "It's a bit of a last resort really, but still, we might persuade him to suss out Glory's game plan." He cupped his hands around the nicotine stick and his lighter before continuing. "Sound worthy?"

Giles sighed, shrugging in desperation, at a loss for what else to try.

Spike nodded. "Off we go then. Meet back at the shop."

Xander carefully patted the watcher on his arm, then fell into step with Spike, while Wesley remained with his former colleague to take him and his wife and child to the Magic Box after they sorted the discharge papers.

"Found Ben's room at Glory's," Spike added. "Didn't learn much."

Xander froze mid stride in shock. "Wait, wait, wait. Ben? At Glory's? You're saying all this time he's been subletting from her?"

Spike rolled his eyes in exasperation. "This ... is gonna be worth it," he decided, before slapping his hand full force into Xander's head.

Both of them clutched their skulls from the pain.

"Last time," Spike growled as they resumed walking. "From the top."

 


Glory leaned against the wall of the warehouse and sighed. "I'm hating this, Murk."

"And this would be what exactly, your holiness?" Murk asked.

"Memories," Glory replied. "I'm starting to remember the things Ben did. People he spoke with, stuff he wore... Hmm!" She raised her voice. "Kid!"

The monastic lackeys parted to reveal the key to Glory, the priest beside her ready and waiting to do the god's commands.

"I came ... he came to see you, didn't he?" Glory asked her.

Elita frowned. "Ben?"

"Yeah, Ben," Glory replied. "You called him to the desert when you were hiding from me. And he came. And then he was me, you remember?"

Nervously Elita nodded. "Yes."

Glory whirled round to face her minions. "See? She's not supposed to remember that! Nobody should! The cloak between Ben and me is fading! I almost helped her! He ..." she paused turning to her sacrifice. "I wanted to. I can't do this!"

She grabbed the priest by the front of his robe. "Get him out of me."

"What?" The priest asked.

Glory burst into tears. "Ben! The human meat-sack who's infecting me. Do your mojo, make an incision, or removal, or whatever you've gotta do. Help me! I'm ... I'm thinking Ben's thoughts, and ... and I'm feeling his feelings! And ... uh! I..."

She paused as her body transformed into the source of her annoyance.

"Can't kill the girl," Ben finished.

He reverted to Glory, who swore. "Damn it." She collapsed to the floor. Summoning what strength she could find, she raised herself up by her hands and looked at the holy man.

"Help me!" She cried.

The priest was understandably nervous. "Th-this I cannot do. You risk terrible magic's in opening the portal. Nothing comes without a price. This ... is yours."

Glory scowled, rising from the floor. "Gods don't pay."

She walked to the sacrifice, and grabbed the young girl by the throat, pulling her to her feet.

"We do this now!" She decided.



Angel looked from the open fire, to the girl sitting on a rock before it, then to the primitive lurking in the shadows opposite.

"The first slayer," he murmured.

As with the moment in Los Angeles, the people in this scene ignored him, staring at his beloved.

"Death is your gift," the primitive revealed.

"Death is my gift?" Buffy echoed, seeking to confirm.

"Death is your gift," the first slayer repeated.

Angel frowned. He remembered Buffy telling him what happened the night she went to seek enlightenment in the desert, and he recalled his response to her, assuring her that the first slayer's words could mean anything. At the time, Buffy had accepted his reply. Now he realised, she never had.

The scene changed once more, reverting to the moment in the Magic Box. Angel watched her walk past him, returning the book in her hands to the bookshelf, then pausing. That moment seemed longer this time, as though it was more than just a simple course of actions, one which could have occurred at any time during their lives.

His surroundings altered again. He turned in time catch sight of his love, attired in jeans and a black tank top, her hair pulled back into a ponytail, ascending the stairs to the second floor of their Mansion on Crawford Street.

"Where are you going?" He wondered.

 


Elita struggled for breath as Glory continued to tighten her hold on her neck.

"Glorificus, wait!" Murk cried. "Kill the key now and all will be lost!"

"We'll be stuck on this mortal plane forever!" Added Gronx.

"All right, you're right," Glory accepted, releasing Elita. "It's cool. I'm just a little emotional right now... which, if you're into irony, funny."

Elita fell against a pillar, her hand tentatively clutching her throat as she gasped for breath.

"Leave," the god ordered. "We need a little girl time."

The monastic lackeys bowed, causing their deity to urge them further.

"Goodbye!"

They hurried out, leaving Glory to stare at her key.

"How do they do it?" the god asked her.

"Do what?" Elita asked hoarsely.

"People!" Glory replied. "How do they function here like this in the world with all this bile running through them? Every day it's whoo-oo. You have no control. They're not even animals, they're just these meatbaggy slaves to, to hormones and pheromones and their, and their feelings. Hate them!"

Elita stopped rubbing her neck to stare at the god, the candle of hope inside her flickering once again.

"I mean really," Glory continued. "Is this what the poets go on about, this? Call me crazy, but as hard-core drugs go, human emotion is just useless! People are puppets! Everyone getting jerked around by what they're feeling. Am I wrong? Really, I want to know."

Elita hesitated, unsure what to say for fear of angering her.

"Gonna bleed you either way," Glory remarked.

"Depends on the person," Elita answered.

"So you're saying some people like this," Glory sought to confirm.

"Some," Elita replied.

"Funny," the god mused. "'Cause I look around at this world you're so eager to be a part of ... and all I see is six billion lunatics looking for the fastest ride out. Who's not crazy? Look around. Everyone's drinking, smoking, shooting up ... shooting each other, or just plain screwing their brains out 'cause they don't want them anymore. I'm crazy? Honey, I'm the original one-eyed chicklet in the kingdom of the blind. 'Cause at least I admit the world makes me nuts." She walked towards her again. "Name one person who can take it here. That's all I'm asking. Name one."

"Buffy." Elita replied.


If Elita had been able to witness the scene taking place in the bedroom of Xander and Anya's apartment just then, her answer might not have been so decided. For Willow still leaned against the wall at the foot of the bed, watching Angel sitting on the chair opposite her best friend. Watching as he remained in the latter's mind, and she remained lost there too.

"I can't keep following you around like this, honey," Angel said to the black tank top and jeans attired figure of his beloved. "We have to go. You have to talk to..." He paused as he walked into the room, catching sight on what lay on the ground.

A small memorial with the following words engraved.

To all those lives lost in the flames.
Hemery High 1996.

"...me," Angel finished softly. He joined her at the monument. "I thought you said that no one died in the fire."

"No one did," Buffy replied. "Death is my gift."

Angel frowned. "Yeah, I keep hearing that, but, like I said to you when you came home, the first slayer could have meant anything when she said those words."

"It's really not that complicated," Buffy replied, walking away from him.

He followed her through into the hallway, then into the other bedroom on the second floor. "Not for you maybe."

Elita was lying on her bed as Buffy sat down beside her. "It's what I do," she explained to Angel. "I mean, come on, you've known me for how long? It's what I'm here for. It's all I am."

Angel watched her as she turned to Elita. Then, horrified, he saw her pick up a pillow and place it over the girl's mouth.

"Buffy, stop!" He cried. "No! God, no!"

Still holding the pillow in place, his love turned to face him. "What? I keep telling you, Angel. I figured it out. Death is my gift."

Elita's form stilled beneath the pillow.

 


"Oh, Ben. This is really not a good time," Glory murmured as she paced the floor of the warehouse.

But the boy refused to remain veiled. He turned to his companion. "Elita. Has Glory hurt you?"

"Uh ... no. Not yet," Elita replied,, watching as he sank into the empty chair. "But I have to get out of here. Ben? You okay?"

Seizing her courage, she walked towards him.

"Where is it?" Ben asked.

"W-where's what?" Elita queried.

Ben stared at his shaking hands. "All the blood. I can feel it ... still warm and ... wet. Glory. Oh, god. She slaughtered hundreds of men. But I can feel them ... breaking."

"Ben," Elita began, "something is happening to both you and Glory."

"I'm remembering her, aren't I?" he added. "The things she's done ... things she's going to do."

Elita nodded. "I know. She told me. I think ... whatever the magic is that keeps you guys apart, it's starting to break down. Ben, Glory could come back any minute."

"How could she do this?" Ben asked aloud.

"I don't know," Elita replied. "But we have to get out of here and find Buffy-"

Ben cut her off. "No! I mean, I have a job. I have a life! And Glory? She never once thinks about me in all this!"

Someone knocked on the door, causing both of them to stare at it.

"Help me," Elita pleaded.

"How?" Ben asked her.

"Highness!" The priest called out from behind the door.

"Please," Elita begged.

"Is everything all right?" the priest asked.

Ben rose and strode over to the door, opening it.

The priest froze in shock. "You're not-"

He had no more time for words. Ben struck him with his head, causing him to fall back against the wall, sinking down to the floor. A second punch rendered him unconscious.

Ben turned to Elita. "I'll take you as far as I can, ditch you before she comes back."

Elita nodded, and together they ran.


"Okay," Angel murmured, watching the scenes before revert suddenly once more to the one he had witnessed the first time he entered his beloved's mind, "... now this is weird."

Buffy removed the lollipop from her mouth. "Hi, Angel. What are you doing here?"

"Actually, I'm looking for you," Angel replied. "Here. Again."

"You've found me," Buffy pointed out.

Angel kneeled before her. "No ... and I think we already deja'd this vu. Beloved, what are we doing here?"

"Don't you like it here?" Buffy asked him.

Angel shook his head. "We don't have time."

Merrick stood before them. "Buffy Summers?"

"Yeah? Hi! What?" Buffy replied.

"I need to speak with you," the watcher continued.

"You're not from Bullock's, are you?" she asked him. "'Cause I-I meant to pay for that lipstick."

"There isn't much time," the watcher added. "You must come with me. Your destiny awaits."

Buffy shook her head. "I don't have a destiny. I'm destiny-free, really."

"Yes, you have," Merrick corrected. "You are the Chosen One. You alone can stop them."

"Who?" Buffy asked.

"The vampires," Merrick replied.

"Huh?" Buffy countered.

Angel turned away, and the time changed again, transforming into the moment when he watched her putting a book away on the shelf in the Magic Box.


Across town, a guy did not look up from his work as he uttered a response to the knocking on his door. "It's always open!"

Spike and Xander entered the building.

"What can I do for you boys?" the guy inquired. "Want some cocoa?"

"No," Spike replied. "We need information. We need-"

"Ben's Glory!" Xander cried, enlightened.

The guy looked up. "Who's what?"

Spike turned his companion with bored surprise. "Look at this. Special Ed remembers."

Xander nodded, too amazed to rebuke the insult. "Yeah. I do. Ben's Glory and Glory's Ben. It's like this fog's lifting."

Spike nodded. "Wonderful. But not why we're here." He turned back to the guy. "Doc, Hell-god type. Name of Glory-"

"A.K.A. Ben," Xander added.

"-has gone missing," Spike continued. "She's brewing up some major-league bad, and she's nicked one of the slayer's friends in the bargain. You got any idea where Glory would take her?"

Doc closed his book thoughtfully. "Glory ... Glory. Oh! You don't mean Glorificus. Gosh. What do you wanna get mixed up with her for? That's a sure way to get yourselves killed. I hear she's awfully unpleasant. When it comes to hell gods, my best advice ... is get out of the way ... and stay there."

"Love to," Spike replied. "Can't."

"Well, uh, other than that ..." he opened a drawer before him, "I'd like to help ... but I-I'm a small-town guy. This Glorificus, if it is her ... whoo, she's big city."

"She's got Elita," Spike added.

"Right. Well, I may know a fella ... you know, who knows a fella in... in China. He might-"

"How the hell are we supposed to get to China?" Spike asked incredulously. "Teleport?"

"I guess," Doc replied.

Spike felt the first inkling of suspicion forming within his mind.

"You know, if you're in that much of a hurry," Doc added. "Wish you luck."

"You're lying," Spike remarked. "And what's more ... I believe you're standing right in front of the very thing we need."

The demon smiled and suddenly leapt to his left. To Spike's surprise he landed behind him, and put a sword to his throat.

"Idiot," he whispered, lunging forward.

Spike deflected the blade with his hand, the movement causing him to lose his balance. He fell to the floor, a knocking a nearby pile of books on to himself.

Doc opened his mouth and unleashed his tongue upon Xander, sending him into the wall, causing the boy to slid down to the floor.

"You think only underworld bottom-feeders worship the beast?" Doc asked Spike. He kicked him in the face, then retrieved the box which he had been hiding, throwing it into the blazing hearth. "Her day is coming, boys!" He cried, grabbing the vampire by his shirt. "And when she returns, then you're gonna see something."

Xander jumped up and put his knees into the Doc's chest, sending him away from Spike. While he wrestled with the demon, Spike retrieved the box.

"Ow!" He growled, turning from the flames in time to see Xander reach out and take the sword, plunging the blade into the demon's chest.

He looked up at Spike. "What do we got?"

Spike looked at the dead demon. "Something worth dying for," he replied.

They left the building, closing the door behind them.

Doc opened his eyes.


"Buffy, will you just stop a second and listen to me?" Angel asked.

His beloved was walking down the hallway of the Mansion's second floor again.

"Buffy!" Angel uttered forcefully. He increased his pace to step before her, preventing her from going any further. "You have to stop doing this."

"Doing what?" Buffy asked him.

"Killing Elita," he answered.

"Why?" She queried.

"Because this never happened," Angel replied.

"I did," his girl countered.

"In your imagination!" He pointed out. "None of this is real! You're stuck in some kind of loop!"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Buffy replied. "'Scuse me." She continued to walk down the hall.

Angel followed her. "Buffy, why are you doing this?"


Elita glanced nervously over her shoulder. "I think they see us."

"Just stay close to me," Ben advised. "Don't look back." Suddenly he pulled her into an alley, pressing them against the wall. "Shh! Stay very still."

She watched him peer round the corner. When he turned back, she hit him with one of the chains attached to her wrists.

"I'm sorry," she apologised, before preparing to run.

"Sorry?!" the god echoed.

Elita did the one thing Ben urged her not to.

She turned back.

Glory stood before her, holding the chain. "That actually hurt, you prepubescent puke. Okay, first thought, just totally spontaneous, unfiltered, off the top of my head ... ow! You hit Ben in his soft human head, and I remember the pain."

She grabbed one of Elita's arms, forcing her further into the alley.

"You probably think I won't waste any precious blood of yours till tonight," Glory continued. "You're right. But I know a thousand ways to hurt you that won't spill a drop." She shoved the girl against the wall. "You know all those pesky feelings Ben's been having like guilt, empathy? I'm gonna take them and mash them back down where they belong, okay? Now, let's have big-girl fun. Just you and..."

Elita looked fearfully into the god's face as she transformed into her male counterpart once more.

"Leave her alone," Ben remarked. "I said, leave her alone."

"No, no," Glory replied. "Little late in the game to start growing a backbone, Benjamin. Now be good and stay quiet. No you don't! Get over yourself, Ben! This is the way things are! I'm strong, you're weak. This is reality. Stop trying to infect me with your..."

She whirled into him. "Do you ever stop talking? I don't know which is worse, waking up in a dress not knowing where I've been, or having to hear all your self-involved ranting!" He cried.

"Animal," Glory returned.

"Wrong, Glory," Ben corrected. "I'm no animal. This is humanity you're feeling. Welcome to the world."

Elita realised this her moment. She slowly rose from her refuge and edge away.

"No, no, no!" Glory cried, grabbing her arm and throwing her across the alley into a dumpster. "Stick around, chica."

"I won't let you hurt her, Glory," Ben added.

"Ooh, shut your hole, you sanctimonious little meatworm," Glory returned. "I'm going home no matter what you do."

The god bent down to retrieve a beer bottle from the floor. Morphing into Ben, he smashed it against the wall, and held the broken glass in his hand to Elita's throat.

"You really think I'll just let that happen?" He threatened.

"Benjamin, what are you doing?" Glory asked him.

"You need her blood?" he replied. "When I'm through there won't be enough left to fill a bottle cap. Then you, hell bitch, have nowhere left-"

"-to go. Huh!" Glory finished, pulling Elita away from the dumpster, tossing her to the other side of the alley, then throwing the bottle against the wall. "You can't hurt her and you know it, Ben. I know it 'cause I feel what you're feeling. Scared. Shh! Shh! It's okay! You don't wanna die. Who would? I don't."

"You can't," Ben pointed out, "you're immortal."

"Nobody has to die here, Ben," Glory remarked. "Just let me bleed the girl and go home. Everything will work out fine."

"Do you really believe with all I know that you can trick me?" Ben asked her.

"Stop ... and think, baby," Glory replied. "We bleed the kid, return me to my seat of power, I become a god again..."

"And I disappear," Ben finished.

"Ooh, unless somebody up there likes you," Glory countered. "Give up the girl ... I could like you a lot."

Ben shook his head. "I won't make a deal with you, Glory."

"When exactly did you get stupid?" Glory asked him. "I'm offering immortality here."

"I believe you," Ben replied. "That's not the problem. You make me immortal, then what?" He asked, walking over to Elita and pulling her to her feet. "I'd have to kill her to do it and I won't be able to live with that, not even for a day, forget about eternity!"

"Baby, baby, baby Ben," Glory admonished, letting go of Elita. "Why do you worry so much? When you're immortal, all this crap you've been carrying around inside, the guilt, the anger, the crazy-making pain...." she smiled. "Ooh, it all just melts away like ice cream. Trust me. When all this is over I can set you up real nice. I'm making it easy. It's you ... or the girl."

Again Ben shook his head. "I can't accept that."

Glory was firm. "Accept it. I'm a god, stupid."

Ben appeared once more. He stared at Elita, who returned the gaze with terror, no longer sure what would happen. Slowly he rose up and walked over to her.

He held out his hand. "I'm sorry."

Elita, misunderstanding the meaning behind the words, offered her hand to his. Then horror blew the candle out inside her as he grabbed her wrist. "No!"

Ben pulled her to her feet. "Don't make this harder than it already is," he said, leading her out of the alley. "I'm sorry, I got no choice. It's you or me."

Three monastic lackeys walked up to them.


In his soulmate's mind, Angel watched Buffy as she stared at the memorial, then turned to go into the other bedroom.

"No. Buffy!" He cried. "Leave Elita alone, what is this?"

"My gift," she replied. "This is what I do."

Angel shook his head. "I'm not talking about this, I'm talking about..." And the words died on his lips as they entered the Magic Box.

Buffy watched herself carry the book to the shelf and put it away.

Angel watched both of her. "Right here, it happened," he murmured. "I know it's something small, but... it's something. What?"

Buffy turned to him. "Don't go there, Angel."

"I'm not!" He countered. "You're the one who keeps dragging me back here! And you wouldn't be doing that if you weren't trying to show me something."

She frowned at him. "Do I?"

Angel returned the look. "Buffy, come on. It's your brain. Just tell me, love. What happened here?"

The girl standing before the bookshelf answered him. "This was when I quit, Angel."

He stilled, the first inklings of a conclusion forming inside his mind. "You did?"

"Just for a second," Buffy replied.

For a brief moment they were in the bedroom again.

"I remember," she said.

The scene reverted back to the Magic Box.

"I was in the magic shop," his love, standing before the bookshelf said.

"I put a book back for Giles," his love, the one standing beside him continued.

"Nothing special about it," Buffy said by the bookshelf. "And then it hit me."

"What hit you?" Angel asked softly.

"I can't beat Glory," the Buffy standing beside him replied.

His love nodded before the bookshelf. "Glory's going to win."

Angel turned to the form of his girl standing beside him. "You can't know that," he uttered gently.

Buffy turned to face him. "I didn't just know it."

Her other self before the book added, "I felt it. Glory will beat me."

"And in that second of knowing it, Angel," the girl beside him continued.

"I wanted it to happen," finished the woman before the stacks.

"Why?" Angel asked.

"I wanted it over," she continued. "This is ... all of this ... it's too much for me."

The slayer standing before him added sadly, "I just wanted it over."

"If Glory wins ... then Elita dies," the Buffy before the shelves stated.

"And I would grieve," the Buffy standing before him continued. "People would feel sorry for me. But it would be over. And I imagined what a relief it would be. I killed Elita."

Angel looked at her, concerned. "Is that what you think?"

"My thinking it made it happen," the Buffy before the book replied. Some part of me wanted it. And in the moment Glory took Elita..."

The woman standing beside him picked up the sentence. "I know I could have done something better. But I didn't. I was off by some fraction of a second."

Buffy before the shelves continued. "And this is why..."

"I killed my friend," she finished from beside him.

Angel watched as one form of his love returned to putting the book away on the shelf, his mind almost angry at the brief thought of surrender which led her here. "I think Spike was right back at the gas station," he remarked before raising his voice. "Snap out of it!"

"What?" The Buffy's answered.

"All this ... it has a name," Angel answered. "It's called guilt. It's a feeling, and it's important. But it's not more than that, Buffy. You've carried the weight of the world on your shoulders since high school. And I, know you didn't ask for this, but ... you do it every day. And so, you wanted out for one second. So what?"

"I got Elita killed," Buffy replied before him.

"Hello!" Angel cried. "She's not dead yet! But she will be if you stay locked inside here and never come back to us."

The slayer stared at herself before the shelves. "But what if I can't?"

Angel sighed. "Then I guess you're right. You did kill your friend."

He turned and walked towards the shop door.

The Buffy standing before him turned towards his departing form in alarm. "Wait! Where are you going?"

Angel turned at the threshold of the door. "Where you're needed. Are you coming?"



Willow straightened as she saw Buffy blink, coming to with a start. Her best friend sat up, correcting her posture, before taking in her surroundings.

Angel barely moved, his dark eyes still fixed on his beloved, waiting for her hazel gaze to return to him.

When she did, he took her into his arms as she finally let loose her grief.



Giles looked up from his tea making as the bell attached to the door of the Magic Box rang. "Buffy? She's back."

Xander and Spike watched from their seats at the table, Jenny from her place beside Ellis, as the slayer, Angel, Anya, Cordelia, Willow, Doyle and Oz entered the room, the latter helping Tara inside.

"You're okay?" Xander asked her anxiously.

"Yeah. I'm okay," Buffy replied. "Hear you found the ritual text."

"Uh, something like that, yes," Giles replied.

"Did you know that ... Ben is Glory?" Xander asked her.

Buffy nodded. "So I'm told. What do we know?"

Giles struggled to begin. "Um, well... according to these scrolls, uh, it's possible for Glory to be stopped."

"Go on," Angel urged.

"I-I'm afraid it's, um ...," Giles paused again, hating to say the words, "well, Buffy, I've read these things very carefully and there's not much ... margin for error. You understand what I'm saying?"

Buffy nodded. "Might help if you actually said it."

Giles removed his glasses and gently sank into a chair. "Um ... Glory ... plans to open a ... dimensional portal ... by way of a ritual bloodletting."

"Elita's blood," Buffy astutely determined.

"Yes," Giles replied. "Once the blood is shed at a certain time and place ... the fabric which separates all realities will ... be ripped apart. Dimensions will ... pour into one another, uh, with no barriers to stop them. Reality as we know it will be destroyed, and ... chaos will reign on earth."

"So how do we stop it?" Buffy asked.

"The portal will only close once the blood is stopped," Giles paused, uncertainly, "... and the only way for that to happen is, um ... He glanced up in to her eyes. "Buffy, the only way is to kill Elita."

Buffy gasped in dismay.

The End
To Be Continued In
The Gift.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Dialogue has been taken from the original episode, which, without giving too much away, this does adhere to in some aspects. There are deaths, but then that is natural, as everything dies, no matter how short or long the life is considered to be, it is the way one has lived it which counts. There are also some pop culture references of my own as well as the ones in the original transcript and shooting script, from Star Wars and the X Files. I leave you to try and spot them. Enjoy.

The Gift.

"You can't be serious," Buffy uttered, as she struggled to keep herself from going to place where Angel had just brought her back from. "There has to be some other way than killing Elita. There has to be something we can do. Anything?"

Giles shook his head reluctantly, hating to disappoint her.

"Explain it again," Buffy urged.

Her watcher smiled at her sadly. "There's nothing new to-"

She brushed his words aside. "Go through it again."

Giles sighed before obliging. "The key was ... living energy. It needed to be channelled, poured into a specific place at a specific time. The energy ... would flow into that spot, the walls between the dimensions break down. It stops, the energy's used up, the walls come back up. Glory uses that time to get back into her own dimension, not caring that all manner of hell will be unleashed on earth in the meantime."

Anya raised her hand for a query. "Um, but only for a little while, right? The walls come back up, uh, n-no more hell?"

Willow shook her head. "That's only if the energy is stopped. And now the key is human... is Elita."

Wesley took up the open leather bound volume from the table and read the girl's fate aloud. "'The blood flows, the gates will open. The gates will close when it flows no more.' When Elita is dead."

Silence met the end of his words as every member of the slayerettes contemplated what that would mean. What they would have to do. Watch a girl die, knowing that they could not stop it without launching Armageddon on the world. One life was the cost of saving the world. They were being asked to take the life of a human being. An Innocent. There was no greater sin. Yet was it sin when it would save the world? None of them wanted to be the one to find out the answer to that question, even those who had taken lives before, for they knew the cost more than the others, as well as the guilt that they would carry for going against the most sacrosanct of moral codes.

"I have places to be!" Tara cried, drawing all of their attention to her. Gently Spike took her hands in his, stroking the skin until she calmed again.

"Why blood?" Xander asked softly. "Why Elita's blood? I mean, why couldn't it be like a, a lymph ritual?"

"'Cause it's always got to be blood," Spike replied.

Xander glared at him, misinterpreting the tone in the vampire's reply. "We're not actually discussing dinner right now."

"Blood is life, lackbrain," Spike replied, keeping his voice calm so as not frighten Tara. "Why do you think we eat it? It's what keeps you going. Makes you warm. Makes you hard. Makes you other than dead. Course it's her blood."

"How did we get like this?" Doyle murmured. "Elita's been in our lives for how long? Not even a year. And yet none of us can bare the prospect of losing the girl."

"Because it means taking a life," Angel added, even though the half Bracken required no answers. "It goes against everything we fight for."

Beside him the slayer sighed. "Pretty simple math here. We stop Glory before she can start the ritual. We still have a couple of hours, right?"

Her watcher nodded. "If my calculations are right. But Buffy-"

She shook her head, rising from her chair. "I don't wanna hear it."

Giles tried again. "I understand that-"

Half way to the shop entrance, Buffy halted and whirled round to face him. "No! No, you don't understand. We are not talking about this."

Giles leapt from his chair. "Yes, we bloody well are!"

The violence of his reply caused everyone to turn to him. Giles calmed himself before he continued. "If Glory begins the ritual ... if we can't stop her..."

"Come on," Buffy remarked as his voice failed him. "Say it. We're bloody well talking about this. Tell me to kill the girl."

"You almost killed Faith," Cordelia pointed out.

"That was different," Buffy replied. She felt her love's eyes on her, and she looked away, sighing. "Okay, maybe it wasn't. Yes, I almost killed her. I was ready to take her life. What's more I was willing, because of how deeply she had betrayed us. And I remember all of you objecting to that. You were horrified at the mere idea of it, even on girl who was our enemy. Now you're asking me to do it again, on a girl we've known for the same amount of time. Well I won't okay?" She sobbed, "I won't!"

Angel rose from his chair and without a word took her in his arms. Silently the Scoobies watched as the two soulmates comforted each other, worrying over what they could do to spare their friend's pain, knowing that perhaps even their attempts might prove useless.

"We'll solve this," Willow promised when they had pulled apart and turned to face the others by the research table. "We will. Don't have another coma, okay?"

Turning round carefully to keep herself in Angel's arms, Buffy nodded.

"If the ritual starts," Giles warned, "then every living creature in this and every other dimension imaginable will suffer unbearable torment and death, including Elita."

Buffy met his gaze. "Then the last thing she'll see is me protecting her."

"You'll fail," Giles replied. "You'll die. We all will," he added, glancing at Jenny and Ellis.

The slayer bowed her head. "I'm sorry," She whispered. "I'll do this on my own if I have to. But I refuse to stand back and let Glory win."

Anya raised her hand. "Okay. All in favour of stopping Glory before the ritual. Suggestions, ideas? Time's a-wasting. Willow. I bet you've got some dark spell a-brewing. Uh, make her a, a, a toad? Little hoppy toad, we can hit her with a hammer?"

Tara giggled. "Hoppy toad."

"What about Ben?" Xander asked. "He can be killed, right? I mean, I know he's an innocent, but, you know, not like Elita innocent. We could kill a ... regular guy." He paused, realising what he had just said. "God, I'm sorry."

Wesley shook his head. "It's doubtful he'll surface again this close to the ritual. We can expect it's Glory we're dealing with."

"We don't have to kill her," Cordelia remarked. "We just have to stop her from doing the ritual. I mean, there's only the one time that she can do it, right?"

Spike nodded. "Yeah. We get her on the ropes, we just gotta keep her occupied till it's too late."

"Okay," Anya agreed. "But I'm still not hearing enough ideas. She's a god. Let's think outside the box."

"Why don't you go think outside the bleeding box," Spike growled.

"Yes, Anya," Giles added, for once in agreement, "apart from your incredibly uninfectious enthusiasm, have you anything else to contribu-"

"The Dagon sphere!" Anya cried, cutting him off.

Giles blinked. "Sorry?"

"When Buffy first met Glory, she found that magical, glowy sphere that was meant to repel Glory," Anya reminded them. "We've got it in the basement. It might drive her away or hurt her." She glanced around, then jumped up from her chair. "Ooh! And Olaf the troll god's enchanted hammer. You wanna fight a god, use the weapon of a god."

Spike shook his head as Buffy left Angel's arms to take the weapon. "Uh, nah, that thing's too heavy to," he broke off as the slayer lifted weapon as easily as any other that might have been resting on the shelf. "Yeah. Good."

Buffy nodded. "I like this. Thanks."

Anya smiled. "Here to help. Wanna live."

"Smart chicks are soooo hot," Xander added, his eyes gazing fondly at his girl.

Willow sighed. "You couldn't have figured that out in tenth grade?" she teased.

Giles put his glasses back on. "Well, we have some ideas, if we could actually get Glory on the run, but, um.."

"But, we still have no idea how to find her," Buffy finished.

"Big day," Tara cried. "Oh, it calls me! I have to be there!"

Everyone glanced at her once more.

"Big day!" Tara repeated.

And then enlightenment dawned.


Elita raised her head from its place on her knees between her arms as the door of her prison opened. Since Ben returned her to the warehouse she had been left alone in her grief, the perfect time to escape.

If only she possessed the means to do so.

Ben entered holding a pile of clothing. "They, uh ... said you have to put this on ... for the ceremony."

Elita glanced at him with tearful, desperate eyes. "What if I don't?"

The former intern sighed. "Come on, just-"

"What if I don't like the colour?" Elita queried.

Ben looked at her sadly. "Look, I ... I wish there was another way."

"And I wish you'd fall on your head and drown in your own blood," Elita shrugged, "so I guess we're both disappointed."

"I think ... it'll be quick," Ben offered consolingly.

The minion behind him shook his head. "Actually, sir, the bleeding is quite a slow process to give the portal time to-"

Ben turned to glare at the lackey. "Thank you for the information." He turned back to the sacrifice. "I'll do what I can to-"

"Change," Elita interrupted.

"What?" Ben asked, confused.

"Change," Elita repeated. "Be her. I don't wanna look at you. At least she's honest about wanting to kill me."

The boy shook his head. "Elita, I don't think you wanna-"

She cut him off. "Be Glory. Be Glory. Glory! Glory! Glory!"

"Will you just stop shouting already?" The god asked.

Elita fell silent, waiting.

"So, what's the hubbub, bub?" Glory asked her, taking a seat. "What do you got against old Benjy?"

"He's a monster," Elita replied. "At least you're up-front about it."

Glory picked at the hemline of the dress in her arms. "Don't be so hard on the boy. He just wants to live. Most guys would do the same. Besides, he's probably the reason the slayer and her little cartoon pals are still alive. That little nagging pinch of humanity that makes me go for the hurt instead of the kill. Lowering myself to trade blows with the Slayer when I should have just put my fist through her heart." She rose from her chair and let the dress unfold, examining the garment. "It's gotta be Ben."

Elita smiled. "Or maybe you just can't take her."

Glory threw the dress to her. Elita caught the end, and the god used the grip to pull the girl to her feet. "Hmm, funny thing. You've been here for a few hours now, and I haven't seen her galloping in to save you. She probably knows what a terrible mistake that'd be."

"She's not afraid of you," Elita replied.

The god smiled. "Oh no, sweetie baby. I'm talking about the ritual. 'Cause you know I bleed you, the portals open, but once you die they close. The faster you die, the better for your sorry species." She placed her hands either side of the girl's head. "I'm betting Buffy knows that. Since you're not really human, I'm guessing she isn't gonna show. And if she does, it might not be to save you."

She shoved the girl to the floor and left the room.

Elita stared through the metal bars of the grating before her eyes, wishing the opening was large enough to crawl through to escape.

"Buffy," she whispered in despair.


Angel entered the workout room at the back of Magic Box, closing the door behind him. He watched his beloved pounding away at the punching bag, alternating hands and strike, maintaining a regular rhythm. Barely hours ago he had been in her mind, trying to persuade her to come back to the world. Watching her now, he almost wished that they returned too late to save Elita, so he could spare her the pain of killing the girl. Suddenly he paused mid-thought. Perhaps he could spare her.

"If you think I'm going to stand back and let you take a life, you've got some domestic violence coming your way," Buffy uttered, ceasing her attack on the punching bag.

He held up his hands in peace. "I have done it before," he reminded her. "Even after I got my soul."

"And how did you feel when you took it?" Buffy asked. "When you drained the life out of them? When you stared down at their corpse knowing you were responsible for their unnatural end?"

He flinched at her words and the tone behind them. But his eyes never left hers. "That's why I don't want to put you through it."

Buffy sighed. "You're wrong, Angel. I go through it everyday. Every time I stake a vampire, I take a life. My ancestor was right when she said death was my gift."

"She was wrong," Angel corrected. "Everytime you stake a vampire, you save a life. That's the true meaning behind her words. Your gift saves lives."

"It won't save Elita's life, will it?" Buffy countered.

Angel shrugged. "Maybe you're not meant to."

Buffy frowned. "Why else did the monks send her to me?"

"She had an unnatural beginning," Angel replied. "Maybe she should have an unnatural end. Maybe that's why the monks sent her to you. Because whatever happens, you always do the right thing."

"How can it be right to take a life?" Buffy asked him.

"Would you chose one life over thousands?" Angel countered. "I know you, Buffy. You save the world everytime."

"At what price?" Buffy replied. "Angel, I killed you to save the world, remember? I love you with every fibre of my being. And I had to send you to hell. Do you think I could do that again? Even with a girl I've barely known a year?"

"I came back," Angel pointed out. "You did the right thing, and the Powers That Be rewarded you for it. Maybe Elita will be saved."

"How can I believe that?" Buffy asked him.

You can't," Angel replied, surprising her. "No one knows what will happen when Elita dies, for good or ill. It's her choice in the end. And you have to let her make it."

"That's the problem, Angel," Buffy returned sadly. "She never had a choice to begin with."


At the warehouse Elita folded her clothes in to a neat pile and carried them to the chair. The ritual gown clung to her body, the material heavy to both to her mind and her touch. She was resigned to her fate now, unable to bring herself even to the point of hope for salvation. That she would receive in death, if she was lucky enough. Kneeling by the chair she recalled what she felt when she slashed her wrists, horrified at the truth of her origins.

Strangely the only sensation she remembered was numbness; an almost powerless feeling of watching the world fade slowly away. No pain, no guilt. Only a feeling of peace, something she had never known for a moment in this world. Suddenly she wondered why she had been fighting Glory all this time. All the god was doing was putting her to use. She was energy, existing only to be used. Free will never came into it.

She looked up as the door opened and a monastic minion trotted over to the god, who was writing at the desk. The demon whispered something to her, making her stop.

"Okay, campers, it's almost stab time," Glory remarked, smiling. She gestured at two lackeys standing by the door. "You two, get her."

Elita let them take her arms and drag her outside.

Glory was still smiling. "See you in a few."

The first thing which caught her eye was a large scaffolding tower, the end result of the mental patients' work. Elita peered up into it's heights, descrying the long mental walkway which stretched out from the topmost platform.

She was going to walk the plank to her doom. Only no water or sharks would be waiting her.

Only the gateway to another world.

The minions urged her forward.

She reached the base and began to climb.


At the Magic Box, Giles called down the stairs leading to the basement, where Xander and Anya were searching for a certain crystal ball. "Any luck? Have you found the Dagon sphere?"

There was some rustling, while the former patron demon of scorned women emerged from behind the staircase, hurriedly covering up her chest with her blouse.

"Um, I'm sure it's here, just be a minute!" She called out.

Xander emerged from behind her, fastening his pants. "Yeah, we're on it! Let's look over here, where we didn't look yet."

"Time is a factor," the watcher reminded them.

"Yes," Anya replied. "Yes. Not to worry."

The door closed and they turned to face each other.

"So, are you more, uh ... relaxed?" Xander asked her.

Anya began actively searching for the crystal ball. "No."

"No?" Xander echoed. "I mean, it sounded like you, uh ... arrived."

Distracted, his girlfriend answered in the negative. "No. Yes. Um, I had the pleasure moment, and the blissful calm that comes right after it. But that only lasted a couple of seconds, and now I'm terrified again."

"Well, you don't have to be," Xander assured her.

"Don't have much of a choice," Anya replied. "Ahh!" she cried suddenly. "God, who, who would put something like that there? Is this supposed to be some sort of sick joke?" She pulled out the toy bunny which had scared her. "I mean as if things aren't bad enough! This is an omen."

Xander came to stand behind her, rubbing her shoulders comfortingly. "Hey, hey, shh, shh."

"No, no, it's an omen," Anya repeated. "It's a higher power, trying to tell me through bunnies that we're all gonna die. Oh god."

Xander shook his head. "No it's not." He watched put the toy back in the box, then wrapped his arms around her. "It's okay."

Anya sighed. "No, you see, usually when there's an apocalypse, I skedaddle. But now I love you so much that instead I have inappropriately timed sex and try to think of ways to fight a god ... and worry terribly that something might happen to you. And also worry that something will happen to me. And then I have guilt that I'm not more worried about everyone else, but I just don't have enough! I'm just on total overload, and I honestly don't think that I could be more nervous than I am right now."

"Care to wager on that?" He asked her softly, bringing his hands to the fore front of her vision. Silently he opened the small box within them to reveal a jewel encased in a circle of precious metal.

Anya stared at the ring as he let go of her, turning to face him.

Xander looked at her bowed her head tenderly. "Anya ... you wanna marry me?"

She slapped him across the face.

"Can I take that as a maybe?" Xander asked.

Anya was stunned. "You're proposing to me!"

"Yes..." Xander confirmed, confused.

"You're proposing to me 'cause we're gonna die!" Anya cried. "And you think it's romantic and sexy and, and you know you're not gonna have to go through with it 'cause the world's gonna end!"

"I'm proposing to you, Anya, because it's not," Xander replied.

She looked him in the eye. "You can't know that."

Xander shook his head. "I believe it. I think we're gonna get through this. I think I'm gonna live a long and silly life, and I'm not interested in doing that without you around."

"Oh," Anya uttered softly. "Okay."

His eyes went wide. "Okay?" he echoed uncertainly.

"Yes," Anya answered, a small smile gracing her face. "I mean, yes."

Xander returned the expression as he removed the ring from the box. He reached out to place it on her finger, but she stopped him.

"No."

Xander stilled. "No?"

"After," Anya replied. "Give it to me when the world doesn't end."

He smiled at her as she wrapped her arms around his neck, before bending his head down to meet her lips with his.


Buffy emerged from the workout room and walked up the research table where her best friend was examining books. "Will, what do you got for me?"

"Some ideas," the redhead replied. "Well, notions. Or, theories based on wild speculation. Did I mention I'm not good under pressure?"

"I need you, Will," Buffy replied. "You're my big gun."

Willow shied away in alarm. "I'm your - no, I-I was never a gun. Someone else should be the gun. I, I could be a, a cudgel. Or, or a pointy stick."

"You're the strongest person here," Buffy revealed. "You know that, right?"

Her best friend frowned. "Well ... no."

"Will, you're the only person that's ever hurt Glory," Buffy pointed out. "At all. You're my best shot at getting her on the ropes, so don't get a jelly belly on me now."

"Well ... I," Willow stammered, touched by her friend's confidence of her. "I ... do sort of have this one idea. But, last few days, I've mostly been looking into ways to help Tara. I-I know that shouldn't be a priority...."

Oz clasped her hand. "Of course it should," he assured her.

"Well, I've been charting their essences," Willow continued. "Mapping out. I think ... if I can get close enough, I may be able to reverse what Glory did. Like, take back what she took from Tara. It might weaken Glory, or ... make her less coherent. Or it might make all our heads explode."

"Buffy," Giles uttered, calling her from across the shop floor. She looked up to see him with Xander and Anya.

"I'll try to work it," Willow promised.

Buffy nodded and rose from the stairs leading to mezzanine floor, making her way across the room.

Spike turned to the redhead. "Thankyou, Willow," he uttered softly.

The wiccan smiled at him. "I'm doing this for her as well you know," she added.

"I wouldn't ask for you to do it for anyone else," Spike replied. He turned to girl resting in his arms. "Don't worry, luv. It won't be long."

To his surprise Tara slapped him across the face. "Bastard! I'm supposed to work on the factors!"

Instead of lashing out, Spike just gazed at her tenderly, until the anger passed and she returned the glance anxiously.

"I'm, I'm not ... I'm not...." the words failed her. She fell into his embrace and cried.

His heart aching for her salvation, Spike could only hold her. "I'm gonna bring you back, luv," he whispered to her. "I have to, or nothing's worth living for."

Across the room, Buffy was smiling at the trio of watcher, boy and former vengeance demon. "No. No, no, that's good. That could be pivotal. Thank you guys."

"Well, you're gonna need some-" Giles began but she cut him off.

"Way ahead of you," Buffy replied. "We have time?"

Giles nodded. "Yes, if you hurry."

"Okay. I'll grab some weapons too," the slayer replied.

"I'm looking for something in a broadsword," Xander mused.

"Don't be swinging that thing near me," Spike remarked from behind them.

Xander looked at him, insulted. "Hey, I happen to be-"

"A glorified nightclub owner?" Spike mocked.

"I'm also a swell bowler," Xander countered.

His girlfriend nodded. "Has his own shoes."

Angel smirked. "The gods themselves do tremble."

"I think Glory would if she saw a giant bowling ball coming towards her," Cordelia mused, causing all of them to smile slightly.

"Come on, Angel," Buffy remarked, heading out of the shop. "Let's lock and load."


After she reached the top of the tower, the minions tied Elita to the edge of support rails with strong thick rope.

"She will come to you soon," one of them declared before walking away.

Elita nervously contemplated the drop waiting for her at the end of the walkway, a small part of her wondering what would happen if she anticipated the ritual's end and jumped now. She remembered reading somewhere in one of Giles' books, to never look into the abyss, else you let the abyss look into you, to awake the spirit of reason and fight, the monsters within and without. She had tried, so hard to keeping fighting, but the abyss was before her now, staring back at her, a dark facade of monsters concealed behind the seemingly clean night sky. Hiding the face of hell. She knew that she should feel scared of what was to come, but strangely a mysterious calm had settled upon her, slowing the frantic beating of her heart, healing the once rising panic within her mind. Consciously her thoughts dwelled not on the unknown which awaited her after death, or the possibilities of afterlife which humans fed themselves to calm their fears, but on resolutions and thoughts that she did not remember ever forming. Was this what the monks created in her mind when they enchanted her from the ball of energy into flesh and soul? She had doubted they had the time to finish what they intended to do in protecting her, yet a part of her now felt certain that this was indeed their design; to grant their enemy a seeming glance, a mere taste of victory, only to snatch it away for themselves and the world at the end.


The chosen warriors returned the Magic Box.

"Are we on schedule?" Buffy asked.

"Yes," Giles replied, "it's time."

Buffy turned to the unsouled vampire. "Spike?"

He turned to his love. "Tara, baby? Is there somewhere you should be?"

Tara turned to the slayer. "They held me down."

"No one's holding you," Spike assured her. "It's the big day, right? Don't you wanna go?"

Tara turned anxiously from the slayer toward him, then back again, before rising to her feet and walking towards the door. As she passed Giles, in the midst of retrieving a sword from the weapons bag, she pointed to him and said. "You're a killer. This is all set down."

Giles froze as she continued to walk towards the shop door, silently considering her words. Then he caught sight of a hand clasping his shoulder and he turned to face his wife.

"Be careful," Jenny pleaded, for she was staying behind with Ellis until it was over.

"I love you," he uttered, before pulling her into his arms. They kissed briefly, and then he parted from her, following the others.

Buffy clasped Spike's arm as he walked past her. "Stay close but don't crowd her. We'll follow in a minute."

He nodded, and she turned round to face the others. "Everybody knows their jobs. Remember, the ritual starts, we all die. And I'll kill anyone who comes near Elita."

Spike stilled by the door he had opened to let Tara through. He glanced at the Watcher. "Well, not exactly the St. Crispin's Day speech, was it?"

"'We few...'" Giles quoted, gathering up a bag of weapons. " 'We happy few.'"

"We band of buggered," Spike parodied before walking out.

Angel picked up the other bag and one by one slayerettes followed.

Buffy was the last to go, her gaze silently meeting Jenny's before lowering to the sleeping form of her godchild in the mother's arms.

"If I don't come back," she uttered, "tell my Mom that I love her, and that I'm sorry I never said goodbye."

"I won't need to," Jenny replied. "Because she already knows. Just like I do."


They made an unusual procession, nine people following a troubled girl, every one of them armed to the hilt. Around them the streets of the hellmouth stretched out deserted, mocking the determination inside the slayerettes, by refusing to let their heroism go noticed.

As usual they were carrying out their good deeds in the dark, saving the world for a universe unaware of their fragile existence. Tomorrow morning these streets would be crowded, filled with citizens, milling about their lives and businesses.

Then again, maybe not.

"What is that?" Anya asked as they came upon the scaffolding.

Giles gazed upwards. "The portal must open up there," he reasoned.

Buffy turned to her best friend. "Will, you're up."

Willow stared at the tower solemnly.

"Need anything?" Wesley asked her.

"Could use a little courage," she replied.

Doyle stretched out his hand before her, revealing a flask.

"The real kind," Willow corrected. "But thanks."

"Good luck," Oz offered.

She smiled at him then followed Tara into the warehouse.


Tara pulled the cast off her wrist and tossed it aside. Mumbling to herself she walked towards a pile of bricks and picked one of them up.

A hand grabbed her shoulder and spun her round.

"You," Glory recognised her. "What are you doing here?"

"She's with me," Willow replied, grabbing the god's head. At the same time, she took hold of Tara's too, blue lightning flickering into life around them.

The god and the girl screamed as the light travelled from one to the other.

Abruptly a surge of power threw them apart, sending their bodies flying in different directions.

Glory struggled up from the concrete in shock. "What the fricking hell did that bitch do to me?"

The minions who had rushed up to her, now clustered around their god helplessly confused.

"You look fine. Truly," one assured her.

Glory clutched her head. "She made a little a hole. Uh, I need a brain to eat."

A minion prostrated himself before her. "Oh, take mine, oh groove-tastic one!"

"I said a brain, you worthless dirt!" Glory replied, rising from the ground and walking away. Behind her, the minions trotted in her wake. "Big day. I got places to be, big day. Need a brain." Glory halted, and scoffed at the sight before her. "Suppose I could always use yours."

"Okay then," Buffy replied. "Come and get it."

Glory smiled at her, then tilted her head, clutching it as the nerves inside her screamed in pain.

"You don't seem very well," Buffy commented innocently.

Glory moved her hand to her robe. "Your little witch bitch ... gave me kind of a headache there." she removed the garment. "But if you think this is gonna last more than eight seconds-"

"I noticed you're talking," Buffy pointed out, "whereas in your position, I would attack me."

A minion stepped from the crowd clustered around the god to come before his divine mistress. "Oh, most sweaty-naughty-feelings-causing one, should we..."

"Go guard the girl," Glory commanded. "This is a ... this is a, a..."

"Diversionary tactic?" A minion offered.

"Go guard!" The god yelled.

The minion scurried away, ushering a group of disturbed works to stand and guard the base of the stairs at the foot of the scaffolding.

Buffy smiled. "It's strange, you're not as blurry with speed as usual either."

"The witch.." Glory began, only for the slayer to cut her off.

"It's not her," Buffy replied as she brought her hands out from behind her, revealing the object within them. "Might be this," she added, as the god looked at the Dagon Sphere, alarmed. "I heard it's supposed to repel you. So my guess is ... you probably shouldn't touch it, either."

She tossed the sphere to the god, who caught it, causing the crystal ball to light up in her palm, seemingly distorting everything around her. Glory frowned in pain, dropping her hand to her side.

Her fist tightened, crushing the sphere.

Destroying the light.

Glory glared at the slayer. "You're gonna wish you-"

Buffy punched her in the face. Surprised, the god stumbled backwards, while the slayer advanced, kicking and punching, again and again, in the regular rhythm she had delivered upon the bag in the workout room.

At the base of the scaffold the minions called the suffering workers to order.

"Stand fast!" One urged aloud. "Kill anyone who dares approach! This will be our day of glory!"

"Well punned," another complimented.

The minion shrugged modestly. "Well, it just called out to me."

A arrow point merged from his chest, causing him to fall to the floor. His companion turned to see a large crowd of people before them, one with bleached blond hair holding a crossbow.

The slayerettes rushed into the melee, while Spike hung back, covering them with his weapon as they launched themselves at the demons.

Xander stabbed one with his broadsword, while Anya swatted another with her baseball bat.

Cordelia swung her blade into one holding a quarterstaff, while Doyle let loose his Bracken heritage to strike another in the face.

Giles and Wesley worked in tandem, fighting two minions at once, while Oz battled another.

Above them the candle of hope inside Elita flickered into life as she caught sight of battle being waged beneath her.

Buffy flipped Glory over to send her into a pile of bricks. She followed with a punch, but the god rolled away, causing her hand to hit the bricks. Buffy tried again, but the god grabbed her arms and threw her across the room.

"Spike?" a voice called out, causing the chipped vampire to turn round. He dropped his weapon and rushed to his love.

"Tara!" He cried, taking her gently into his arms.

"Spike," she uttered softly, "... I got so lost."

He smiled at her. "I found you," he replied, raining kisses on her face before pulling her close. "I will always find you."

Buffy jumped to her feet and readied another punch.

"You know what?" Glory queried as she grabbed the fist. "I'm feeling a little better. And now? I'm a little bored."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Buffy apologised. "'Cause you're about-"

Glory raised her own fist, prepared to cut her off, only for her arm to be wrench behind her back. She turned to find a dark haired man smiling at her, as he swung the large hammer he was carrying into her face, sending her flying across the room, into a wall.

"You're not the brightest god in the heavens, are you?" Buffy remarked with a grin.

"Buffy!" Elita screamed. "I'm up here!"

The slayer looked to her soulmate.

"You go," he replied. I'll take care of this one."

"Buffy!" Elita cried.

The slayer ran towards the scaffolding, leaping over piles of bricks and dodging minions and Scoobies to reach the stairs.

"Oh no you don't!" Glory declared.

"Haven't you heard?" Angel asked as he hit her with Olaf's hammer again. "Nobody messes with my girl."


"Buffy!" Elita screamed. "I'm up here!"

The slayer sprinted up the stairs, her past history with the tracking sport coming to hand as she strove to climb the scaffold to the top. She could hear the sound of her friends fighting the minions below, and her soulmate pounding the living daylights out of Glory with Olaf's hammer. She caught sight of the duel as her journey took her to the edge of a tower floor. Her vampire had not dropped an ounce of his fighting skill since his reversion to half human. It was at times like these that she often wondered what would have happened if he had fought Acathla like Whistler told her he was meant to.
Or perhaps he did, she realised suddenly, from a certain point of view. Just as her ancestor's words could also become true if viewed from another angle. After all, everything was about meanings in the end.

Below her Angel continued to swing the hammer, the weapon striking the god time and time again.

Abruptly Glory grabbed the handle and wrenched it from his hands, tossing the giant weapon aside.

"You lost your hammer, sweet cheeks," she mocked. "What are you gonna hit me with now?"

Angel declined from answering her. Instead he directed his gaze to the wall which the god was standing before.

Glory followed his gaze in time to see a wrecking ball break through the barrier and into her body. The ball took the god with them, sending her into a second wall before releasing her to the asphalt on the other side.

"Whatever's handy," Angel replied, inclining his head in salute at the driver.

Inside the vehicle Xander returned the motion and the sentiment behind it before shutting down the engine.

"The glorified nightclub owner picks up a spare," the boy murmured to himself.


Anya straightened up, pausing her fight. "Has anyone noticed we're going backwards?"

Cordelia ducked as brick attempted to hit her head again. "It's crossed my mind."

Beside them Giles panted for breath. "As long as ... Buffy can keep Glory down ... long enough, it doesn't matter. There's only a few minutes left to start the ritual."

Xander joined them, followed by Angel.

"How we doing?" The former asked.

"So far it's a tie," his girlfriend replied.

"We haven't got up to Elita, but then neither has anyone else," Wesley added.

Angel gazed up at the scaffolding. "Someone's up there," he corrected.

En masse they raised their eyes towards the tower, but the angle was too steep for any human to get a clear look at who had joined Elita at the top.

"Okay, we gotta charge or something," Xander decided.

"We tried that," Anya reminded him.

"Angel," Willow said suddenly, inside his head. "Can you hear me?"

The souled vampire frowned, staring across at the wiccan as she sat up from the pile of wood Glory and thrown her into. "Yeah, loud and clear."

"Is there someone up there with Elita?" Willow asked him telepathically.

"Yeah, can't tell who," Angel replied.

"Are you talking to us?" Xander asked him.

"Get up there," Willow ordered. "Go now."

Angel rose up from the cover and ran towards the tower.

Behind him Tara joined the redhead while Spike left her side to help his grandsire. Willow took Tara's hand in her own, and the minions parted before the vampire's path, like the tide before the sand.


Elita sighed in relief as a kindly looking human appeared before her. "You. You can help me. Untie me. Please. Help me, she's coming."

The man smiled at her. "Well, it seems she's running a bit late, is the thing. And, uh, if her Splendidness can't be here in time to bleed you..." he let the sentence fade away, as Elita's face crumpled with despair.

"Hey, kid!" he whispered. "Wanna see a trick?"

From nowhere a large dagger appeared within his grasp. He smiled as he raised the weapon to his face.

Elita felt all the air leave her mouth in a soundless scream of terror.

Doc examined his pocket watch. "Well. What do you know? It's just about that time."

"Spike!" Elita cried as the vampire appeared behind the demon.

"Doesn't a fella stay dead when you kill him?" Spike asked the demon before him.

"Look who's talking," Doc returned.

"Come on, Doc," Spike smirked. "Let's you and me have a go."

Doc tapped the dagger against his hand. "I do have a prior appointment."

"This won't take long," Spike assured him.

Doc nodded. "No, I-I don't imagine it will."

Spike leapt forwards. The Doc dodged his lunge, took the vampire by the neck, and thrust the knife into his back.


Buffy reached another level of the scaffolding only to be suddenly confronted by the god. She halted with frown. "Didn't my boyfriend tell you not to mess with me?"

Glory shrugged. "What can I say? I'm a god. We don't obey vampires. Even the souled ones."

Suddenly a hammer flew through the air, causing the god to duck, letting the weapon sail into the slayer's hands.

Buffy smiled as a figure rushed past her. "Thanks honey," she uttered to Angel's disappearing form, as he rushed past them ascend the tower, trying to rescue Elita, before striking her opponent with Olaf's hammer.

Glory looked at the slayer in anguish. "You're just a mortal. You couldn't understand my pain."

Buffy readied her weapon. "Then I'll just have to settle for causing it," she replied before swinging it into the god.

Glory reeled away under the impact, but only took a moment to recover.

"You can't kill me," she remarked.

"No," the slayer agreed. She raised her arm. "But my arm's not even tired yet."

The hammer pounded on Glory again.


Spike reached behind him and pulled the knife out of his back, before putting himself between the demon and the key. "You don't come near the girl, Doc."

Doc looked at him with a frown. "I don't smell a soul anywhere on you. Why do you even care?"

"I made a promise to a lady," Spike replied.

"Oh?" Doc queried, before unleashing his tongue, causing the vampire to duck and cover. He dropped to his knees, pull the vampire's feet from under him, sending him to the floor. They wrestled upon the platform for a moment, until the demon struggled to his feet, taking the vampire with him, pining the undead's arms behind him.

"Then I'll send the lady your regrets," Doc remarked.

"No," Spike uttered.

Doc pushed him over the edge of the walkway.

"Aah!" Elita screamed. "No!"

Spike fell to the ground, his living corpse hitting a pile of bricks and broken concrete. He struggled up with pain on his face, while Tara rushed to his side.


Glory fell to her knees. "Stop it."

"You're a god," Buffy replied, hitting her again. "Make it stop."

Glory fell to the floor, and Buffy pounded the hammer into her again and again and again, until the beast transformed into another.

"I'm sorry," Ben apologised.

"Tell her it's over," Buffy ordered. "She missed her shot. She goes. She ever, ever comes near me and mine again..."

Ben shook his head in firm denial. "We won't. I swear."

The slayer dropped the hammer and ran for the stairs to the next level.

Ben coughed, flinching from the pain such a violent exhale caused. "I guess we're stuck with each other, huh baby?" he mused to himself.

Giles kneeled beside him. "Can you move?" He asked.

"Need a ... a minute," Ben replied. "She could have killed me."

The watcher shook his head. "No she couldn't. Never. And sooner or later Glory will re-emerge, and ... make Buffy pay for that mercy. And the world with her. Buffy even knows that and still she couldn't take a human life."

He paused to retrieve his glasses from his pocket and put them on.

Ben patiently waited for him to finish.

"She's a hero, you see," Giles continued. "She's not like us."

"Us?" Ben frowned.

Giles put his hand over the boy's nose and mouth, forcing the orifices shut. Beneath his firm hand the boy struggled helplessly, until his life was no more.


The silence which once settled over the battlefield was now brought to an end as the key screamed in pain.

"Shallow cuts..." Doc murmured to himself as he cut Elita's skin, "shallow cuts..."

Elita screamed at each and every fresh wound.

"Let the blood ... flow... free," Doc continued.

Red red drops fell between them into the air.

"Elita," a voice called out.

"Angel!" the girl cried. "Buffy!"

Doc whirled round to face the souled vampire and the slayer.

The chosen warriors ventured forward.

"This should be interesting," Doc murmured.

Suddenly Angel broke into a run, sending his hand right into the demon's chest, pushing him off the walkway to the pile of bricks and concrete below.

Buffy went to Elita. "Here," she uttered, trying to shush the girl.

Elita flinched in pain. "Buffy, it hurts."

"I got it," Buffy assured her. "Come here. You're gonna be okay."

Red red drops of blood met an invisible doorway in the sky. A circle of bright white light appeared, rapidly expanding.

Buffy untied the girl's bonds and helped her back to the scaffolding.

"Go!" She urged.

Elita froze. "Buffy, it's started."

As her desperate frenzied rush up the scaffold came to an abrupt halt in the death of the demon who sought to aid a victory for his god she just ordered to flee, Buffy was struck by the ugly symmetry between the desolate reality before her now, and the memory of three summers ago, when she held Angel for what she believed to be the last time, allowing herself the brief selfish indulgence of a farewell kiss before sending him to hell to save the world, one in which she could not contemplate living without him. Then as now, she held before her one person whom she loved, though not to the same degree, while behind them the barrier between dimensions was slowly tearing itself apart due to the blood which was spilt. Then as now, she had gone into battle with the intention of saving Elita and or preventing the apocalyptic ritual from taking place. Then as now, actions and events culminated into forcing her to kill someone she loved to save the world. Then as now, she wanted time to stop, for someone to intervene and free her from the burden and responsibility of what she had to do now. Back then she had been alone, unwilling to connect or depend on friends who mistrusted Angel and her judgement when it came to those she cared about. Now she had friends with her, although she wasn't sure how some of them felt about the battle tonight, or about what she had to do next. As for herself, she knew Angel was right when he told her in the training room that whatever the consequences, she would always choose to do the right thing, and save the world.

She looked at the girl in her arms, knowing that this time, she could not keep them ignorant of the end which was to befall them. "I'm sorry."

Elita just smiled. "It doesn't matter."

Lightning flashed around them, causing the slayer to catch sight of something emerging from the gateway. A beast of fabled times, when crusades ruled the will of the people, slayed by saintly hands, a male alternative to her destiny. Inwardly she wondered if the myth had some basis in history, if centuries ago a watcher had asked one of her ancestors to be St George. The dragon circled the tower, then flew away to explore this strange new world which he had entered.

"Buffy, you have to let me go," Elita continued. "Blood starts it, and until the blood stops flowing, it'll never stop. You know you have to let me. It has to have the blood." She stepped forward and placed a hand on Angel's chest.

Angel met her tearful gaze with his own. "I'm so sorry," he whispered.

"I'm not," Elita replied, surprising them, "I know now what I was sent here to do. I'm a key. And keys can open doors. Or they can close them. You just have to know how."

She let her hand fall from Angel's chest and walked away, causing them to turn, watching her as she reached the end of the walkway.

Elita turned as she came to stand before the precipice. "I looked up my name once," she informed the couple. "It means chosen." she smiled at them, "like you two. Take care of each other and the world."

The slayer and her angel watched as the girl leapt into the gateway, her small body glowing as she hit the circle of the light. Unseen below them, the battle had stopped, the minions having fled when the watcher killed their god. While the farewell had been taking place above them, they were gathering in twos, surveying and treating wounds, afraid to air thoughts as to what might happen once the gateway between worlds opened. They saw the dragon fly away, a part of them wondering if they would have to become St George during the summer, another hoping that it would become someone else's problem. The god had taken a toll on them, they needed time to reflect. Time to mourn, they realised as they watched the girl who had been with them barely more than a year, yet dear to them any friend or lover they stood or knelt beside now, take her final leap in this world to pass into the next. Glorificus' wishes were being answered, but not in the way she had desired. Keys could open doors, true, but they could also close them, by simply turning in the lock.

Buffy watched Elita as she leapt over the precipice, wrapped in the arms of her angel, who held her partly out of comfort and partly out of a fear that she might follow the chosen one to her death with a last ditch effort to save the girl's life. She remained in his arms however because she felt if she tried to leave them, she would collapse under the weight of grief and guilt consuming her. Those feelings matched the intensity of what she had felt three summers ago, when she wished that she could have taken her beloved's place, to rescue him from what he would endure in hell, and she hoped when he returned that she would never have to feel their like again. Another hope also entered her mind as she watch the chosen girl jump, that Elita would return to the ball of energy described by Tara, that her existence would not be brought to an end by these actions.

Elita was chosen however, one girl in all the world, to do what no one else could. Her blood ceased to flow, sealing the barrier once more, preventing the dimension from breaking down around the hellmouth, saving the town and the slayer from more deaths and possible heartache in what might prove to be a ceaseless battle. But while her soul left her body to travel to a better place, the form which the monks spent the last desperate seconds of their lives creating, ended its days on the pile of unused bricks lying below the edge of the plank, waiting for the family she left behind to gather, coffin and bury.

Angel heard the horrible sound which signalled Elita's end, and forcibly turned the woman in his arms around, burying her face on his chest, protecting her eyes from the sight which he knew awaited them, until she had the strength to face it without wishing she could have taken the girl's place. He had the will to die to save the girl in his arms, but not to watch her end her life in vain, nor go on without her.

He remembered the sorrow he saw in her dark eyes three summers ago as she did what she had to do to save the world, and hoped to spare her what pain he could now that moment was repeated again to some degree. Tenderly his hands caressed soothing circles to her skin through her layers of clothes as her tears began to soak his own. As he bent his chin to rest on her blond tresses, he was surprised to feel some slide down his face too.

Crying was not an alien emotion to vampires, he had felt them when he returned from hell, but the hurried breath emerging from deep within him was. Barely able to believe what he felt inside him, he lifted his head to let Buffy meet his gaze, before she managed a small smile, as she pressed her ear against his chest to listen to the beating heart within.

The End.
To Be Continued In.
Season Six.
Behind Bars.