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Quantum Entanglement (or That Time Spike Started a Multiversal Collapse)

Chapter Text

The first time Spike fell off of Glory’s tower, he was destined to die an awful, and subsequently dusty, death.

Now the annoying thing about falling, no matter if you are human or vampire, is how very difficult it is to fall and scream at the same time. You’re plummeting down, you can see your imminent death beneath, you open your mouth to give voice to a magnificent scream – but you can’t. You’re fighting the turbulent forces of ice cold air rushing in, freezing your tongue, drying your throat, choking your vocal cords – the most you can achieve is a series of pathetic grunts that give no real expression to the intense terror inside you.

If Spike could’ve taken a time out to pause – in his rapid descent from Glory’s tower – he would’ve gratefully shared his own personal experience of the aerodynamics of free fall, on the proviso that he not resume his experience to its inevitable end.

The speed with which Spike was falling certainly guaranteed permanent death. Though he was a vampire, the force of impact on the metal pipes and cinderblocks strewn about the concrete below would separate his right arm from his torso and bend his neck so completely his head would be severed: neatly ensuring his instant explosion into dust.

The only thing that saved him that night was that world’s particular set of mathematical equations involved in Air Resistance or ‘drag’. In layman’s terms, Spike’s fall was slowed – not by much, but just enough to place him perfectly for entry into one of the many portals that were ripping into existence mid-air. The moment he fell through, the portal vibrated, squealed, and then shortly after, snapped shut.

At the very moment the portal Spike fell through closed, it sent strong ripples through the very fabric of the multiverse, that permanently affected countless worlds.

In one world, a warrior stood alone against a dragon in a desolate swampland. As she braced herself for its attack, a crackling black portal engulfed them like the wide open beak of an enormous bird and swallowed them whole.

In another, a young girl was sobbing alone on the steps in a great castle, while a scarred man with a magical eye leant heavily on his good leg and awkwardly attempted to pat her on the shoulder. The next second, an electric white portal moved at high speed through the castle, and they were both gone.  

And in yet another, the goddess of Spring had just looked her husband-to-be in the eye while she delicately placed six pomegranate seeds, one by one, from his trembling hand into her mouth. As she placed the last on her tongue, he reached up to touch her face – and then she disappeared in a vortex of magenta and blue.

 

Chapter Text

Spike woke with a splitting headache.

He was lying on his side in a dank alleyway.

Groaning, he clambered unsteadily to his feet.

He saw with extreme puzzlement that he was naked. His hands were bruised and cut, like he’d been fighting. He struggled to remember what had happened; but, try as he might, his memory failed him. He clutched at his throbbing head and groaned.

The only thing he could honestly remember was…

Drusilla.

Dumping him, again. Then him driving, drinking and cursing all the way back to Sunnydale. Again. Falling out of his car. Again. Set on his hare-brained scheme to get the Gem of Amara, and then failing. Failing, again, to kill the Slayer, even when he had it. That smug blonde bitch.

He remembered waking up in a cell.

Remembered the moment he realised he couldn’t bite anymore, courtesy of those military buggers shoving a chip in his brain.

Remembered the furious despair.

No more draining his victims dry.

No more Big Bad.

Bastards.

He’d been on the verge of making up his mind to actually go to the Slayer – the Slayer, of all things – for help. And then… nothing more.

He couldn’t remember how he got to be here.

And he had the oddest feeling about his memories... something that didn't fit. 

“Bloody… stupid…sod!” He cursed himself. “Bloody… Sunnydale.” He glared around in distaste. “Why’d I have to come back here anyway?”

Lurching against the nearby walls for support, he stumbled out into the street.

Slowly, he looked around again, this time focusing on the buildings.

The sun seemed to have just set. The street was cramped, with small, compact houses lining both sides. There were no streetlights, no cars parked at the curb, no tell-tale cracks of light at the windows, nothing.

He looked up and down the street again. Not a single headlight. Not even a pedestrian. Nothing. Even for Sunnydale, that was weird. Well, weirder. Slowly, he began to walk. A slight breeze chilled his face as he did.

There was something more he’d forgotten. He could feel it, niggling at his brain. Something really, really important. But buggered if he could remember what it was.

“Where the bloody hell is everybody anyway?” He muttered.

“Who’s there?” Answered a strident voice.

Spike spun and saw the outline of a plump young woman running towards him, shining a flashlight in his face. He winced and raised his arm to cover his eyes.

“Identify yourself!” She commanded. “Show your workcard!”

“Unnh?”

“Who are you?”

Spike didn’t know how to answer that. Telling her, ‘Just a vamp who likes a good time, pet’ seemed an inadequate description for the obviously excellent time he must’ve been having the night before.

Sighing in irritation, she muttered to herself as she holstered the flashlight in her belt. Spike lowered his arm. She didn’t look to be much older than her early twenties, and was wearing a weird-looking short skirt and a scrap of a tank top.

“Where’s your ID?”

“Huh?”

“Another one.” She muttered. “You’d think they’d learn not to turn the brainsucked ones. Fucking idiots.”

Spike wondered if the pain the chip in his head would cause for hitting her would be worth it, because he was really tempted to find out.

“What the bloody hell are you talking about –” he started to growl.

The woman gave a low whistle. “Oh, British, are you? Your owner must’ve paid a pretty penny, Slave.” She stepped closer, peering at his bruised face. “Looks like they’ve been getting their money’s worth.”

Spike shook his head. She’s a loon, he decided. Or drunk. Either way, not worth risking a bigger headache over. He started to careen off in the opposite direction.

“Just where do you think you’re going?”

“Oh, piss off, little girl.”

What did you just say?” The girl was at his side in an instant, hauling him back with impressive strength.

“Piss off,” Spike spat, and tried to wrench his arm out of her iron grip. He couldn’t. He stared at her hand, and then at the plump figure it belonged to.

Frowning, he tried again.

She smirked. “Looks like you disrespected the wrong Slayer, Slave.”

Slayer? Spike’s tired brain tried to comprehend what she just said. Slayer?

A crackling voice came out of nowhere, startling him, and it appeared to have come from the girl in front of him.

Never once taking her eyes – or her firm grip – off of Spike, she lifted her other wrist and appeared to be speaking into some type of watch thing she wore.

“Slayer 451 reporting. I have an unidentified runaway slave here on St Aubins Street, close to reported site.”

She listened to the response. Spike could barely understand what was being said, the signal crackled in and out – but he did pick up, from the garbled response, some words. Like “Interrogation”, and “Unidentified portal”.

“Negative. Have no lock on the exact location. But the runaway could be a possible witness.”

The fuzzy signal seemed to clear, and Spike heard the voice on the other end sighing. “Alright. ETA?”

“25 minutes. Over.” She pressed a button on her watch, and the crackling stopped.

Grinning, she shoved Spike against the wall and pressed her arm against his throat. Tilting her head, she regarded him as though he were the wrong meal, and she was deciding whether to have it or send it back.

“You know, you look kinda familiar,” she observed. “And you’re actually not that bad looking. Shame your owner had to hit your face so hard.”

It was a stunned few moments before Spike realised the girl in front of him was shifting her belt up and tugging the strange skirt she was wearing apart. He had the sudden idea she wasn’t the type to wear underwear.

“What the – what the hell are you doing?”

She pushed down on his shoulders until his knees hit the ground. Standing over him, one foot on either side, she bared herself to him.

She definitely was not wearing any underwear.

“You know what to do, Slave.”

Spike gaped.

Impatient, she hit him with her fist.

“Get on with it!” She snarled. “Or you won’t just be a runaway slave. You’ll be a dusty one.”

Spike realised he must be having a dream. An incredibly vivid one. Only, the girl’s fist had hurt too much to be the product of pure subconscious.

He saw her pull back her fist to hit him again, but he moved quickly and caught it before it connected.

She stared at his resistance.

Spike stared at his hand.

He hadn’t felt even the merest headache at catching her fist. Maybe the chip didn't work when it was self-defense? He couldn't remember - but instinct told him to fight, so he took a deep breath and prepared for the chip to really fire.

“Hate to disappoint a – uh – lady, but I’m kind of – not in the mood.”

And with that he swept his leg out, knocking her hard on her feet and pressed his hands to his head, ready for the sharp pain to debilitate him.

There was nothing.

“Bastard!” screamed the plump Slayer, struggling to get up.

Spike stared.

His chip hadn’t fired.

At all.

Slowly, he began to smile.

The Slayer was up again, staring down at the smiling vampire. Her expression turned murderous and flecks of spittle gathered on her lips.

“Pathetic little bitch. You need to be taught your place! You’ll do me, Slave, or you’ll –”

But Spike never found out what the alternative was, because something slammed into the side of the girl’s head out of nowhere, sprawling her unconscious to the ground. Behind her, a thin woman was standing, breathing hard, brick in hand. Throwing it away, she scraped long brown hair out of her face.

“I’m Hermione.” She said abruptly. “Hermione Granger.” She took off the jacket she was wearing and held it out to him. “Put this on and come with me.”

Spike sat, unmoving, looking up at his unlikely rescuer.

“Come on!” She snapped. “Unless you want to go back to your owner!”

Spike’s lips twisted in wry amusement. “Don’t have an owner, pet!”

She peered at his face, and he saw her eyes soften with compassion as she took in his bruises, before trailing her gaze down. Her eyes widened. He made no move to hide his manhood, enjoying the way she blushed and shook her jacket at him.

“Come on! We haven’t got time!”

It felt like it had been a long time since Spike had made someone uncomfortable like that. Hell, it felt like it had been a long time since he had been free from this infernal chip. He stood up, and she took a step backwards, still holding out the jacket. For a long moment he savoured the anticipation of burying his fangs in her neck. His eyes started to change.

“Slayer 451.”

Startled, they both glanced towards the unconscious Slayer on the ground. A small green light was blinking on her wristwatch.

“Slayer 451, do you copy? Slayers 379 and 165 need a rendezvous point. Over.”

“Come with me now!” She hissed at Spike. “We have to get off the streets!”

Spike shrugged and smirked. “Alright then.”

Allowing her to help him to his feet, Spike didn’t miss the way she blushed again and averted her eyes, her jacket barely stretched to the tops of his thighs. He started to say something lewd but she only shook her head at him.

“No time! Come on!” Gripping his hand hard, she began to run.

Spike had no choice but to run as well. Ignoring the pain from his injuries as he was jerked suddenly into motion, he forced himself to think of how good her blood would taste once he was inside her home.

He looked around at the buildings as they ran, but he couldn’t recognise any of them. He wondered where exactly in Sunnydale they were, because it certainly wasn’t anywhere he was familiar with. Not the compact terrace houses that lined the cramped and filthy lanes, not the barred windows, and definitely not the faint metallic smell in the air. He’d grown so used to Sunnydale’s sulphuric smell, courtesy of being built over a Hellmouth, that he’d stopped noticing it.

Until it wasn’t there anymore.

Like now.

She ran through the dark with graceful ease, but Spike could tell by her heavy breathing and fast heartbeat she was definitely human. He figured it simply must be a familiar route for her. Or maybe she was just really used to running from things.

He winced as his ribs began to grate together. He needed blood and he needed it now. He couldn’t wait any longer. He began to slow and pull her to a stop. She looked back. For a moment he thought of frightening her, giving her a taste of the old Spike – but there was really only one girl he wanted to frighten, and it wasn’t the thin brunette who’d witlessly rescued him. He’d make it quick for her, it’d only be fair.

“Look, love, not that I don’t appreciate the rescue an’ all, but –” He began to pull her closer, pretending that he wanted to speak in her ear quietly.

“Shhh,” she hissed, stopping his mouth with her hand, peering in the dark behind them.

Spike’s face morphed into his demon’s.

She glanced back at him and gasped, snatching away her fingers as he bared his fangs.

He smiled. “Best keep yer fingers t’yerself, unless you wanna lose them.”

When she turned and ran, he decided he’d give her a head start.

 

Chapter Text

Spike had to give it to her, she was a quick little thing.

He’d wanted to do it fast; he’d had no desire to really waste time scaring her. But, honestly, this was the first good chase he’d had in years. It’d been so long, he’d almost missed it.

The rush, the crunch.

They’d been playing cat and mouse for several minutes, and he’d never felt more exhilarated in his existence. He’d even forgotten his pain; his injuries no longer slowed him. The promise of human blood was a powerful motivator.

She flew around a corner.

He slowed down as he followed: it was a dead end.

She was trapped.

He laughed, delighted at her foolish bravery as she swung around to meet him, holding her hand up as though in warning.

“Oh, love,” he chuckled. “What are you doing?”

“I grant this vampire invitation to my home.”

She flicked her fingers through the air, and Spike felt a strange warmth emanating from her, to cover him from head to foot.

“Ooooo, toasty warm,” he laughed, and leapt at her.

“Apparate!” She shouted.

Spike’s laugh turned into a confused choking sound as she wrapped her fingers around his wrist.

The next moment, the alleyway was empty.

 


 

When Slayers 379 and 165, Rona Kelly and Holly McClintock respectively, had found Nisha bleeding and unconscious on the road, they were not sympathetic.

“Hey.” Rona tapped her boot on Nisha’s side. “Wake up.”

Nisha groaned.

“Get up, Nisha.” She poked her again with her toe, a little harder this time.

“Fuuuuccccckkk...” Nisha swore.

The Slayer slowly came to consciousness to see two very unimpressed Slayers looking down at her.

“What the hell happened to you?” Holly asked flatly.

“Nothing.” Nisha said sullenly.

“Uh huh.” Holly rolled her eyes. “Cos ‘nothing’ looked like it hurt. A lot.”

Rona turned to look up and down the street, but there was of course no sign of anyone.

“You reported a runaway slave.” She commented. “So where is it?”

Nisha got to her feet without answering, shoving her hands into her pockets.

"Dunno.” She didn’t look at them.

“Get the better of you, did it?”

“No!” Nisha denied hotly.

Sighing, Rona pulled a stick of bubblegum out of her back pocket and began to chew, looking like she’d rather be anywhere else but talking to the sullen Slayer.

“Well, I’m gonna have to call it in.”

Holly flicked at the buttons on her commwatch. She frowned at it when it blinked rapidly on and off.

“Stupid things.” Holly muttered. “Military grade my ass.”

Finally it crackled to life and she spoke into it.

“Command Centre. 379 reporting assault on 451, over.”

As Holly listened to the hurried responses on the other end, Rona tapped an impatient foot on the ground.

After some interminable minutes filled with incoherent crackling, and Holly walking away a little to get a better signal, Rona finally turned to the other Slayer.

“You know, if you spent more time training and less time fucking around with the slaves you arrest, this wouldn’t have happened.”

“Fuck you, Ro.” Nisha was irate. “I’m out here every night bustin’ my ass.”

“Whatever,” Rona looked away, smacking her bubble gum noisily between her lips.

Holly finished talking, and turned to the other two.

“Simone’s gonna wanna talk to you.” Holly said impassively to Nisha. “She’s just told me to haul your ass back to command centre.”

 


 

Spike fell hard, jarring pain splintering up through his body at impact.

He heard Hermione breathing heavily in the room with him.

“Cutting it a bit fine, aren’t you,” came a voice. “Doesn’t your workcard only extend your curfew till 7?”

“It’s okay, I made it,” Hermione called back.

“Fred left you something to eat before she went to work –”

“I’ll get it, don’t trouble yourself.”

Spike shook his head, trying to make his eyes focus, and his stomach lurched. He blinked and saw worn carpet beneath his hands and knees. Light footsteps came towards him.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a chair shot across the floor, and Spike found himself involuntarily flung into it. He looked up in shock.

Hermione twisted her hand towards him with a strange kind of flicking motion.

“Incarcerous.” She said quietly.

Several thick ropes snaked out of her hand towards him and coiled themselves tightly around him. He snarled again and struggled against them, but they might as well have been ropes of iron for all the good his resistance did.

She rubbed her hand. “You’re safe. We’ll feed you soon.”

“Could’ve fed me yourself,” he growled. “Bent your pretty neck for me, and saved us both the bother!”

“What’s your name?” She asked tersely.

He had a sudden instinct that telling her his name may not be the best idea. At least, not until he figured out just who she was. And where he was.

"Sod off.”

“You know, you could be more grateful that I saved you.”

Spike considered that.

“Or, I could just pull out your eyeballs and make you suck on them.”

She looked at him in horror.

"You… that is disgusting! You say anything like that again, and I’ll, I’ll… jinx you with bat ears!”

Spike laughed. “You wanna make threats, pet, you gotta be a bit more believable.”

Hermione pursed her lips. “I have no qualms dragging you back out there for Nisha to find.”

“Yeah? Well, Nisha was a damn sight more entertaining than you!”

“You wouldn’t be saying that if you saw what she does to the others she’s ‘arrested’. She has a tendency to get carried away when she’s not pleased fast enough.”

“I’ve had worse.” He smirked. “Done worse.”

“Can you two keep it down?” The same voice from before called out.

“It’s not me! I’m in bed already!” A second voice answered from a different direction.

“Then who is it? Hermione, who’ve you got in there with you?”

A middle-aged man came into the room, fumbling with his glasses. “You know, it’s really hard to sleep when –”

The man paused upon seeing Spike, and adjusted his glasses, peering hard.

“I thought we agreed you wouldn’t do anymore ‘rescues?” he said.

A woman came in through the kitchen, pulling on a worn dressing gown, before stopping in shock when she saw the vampire.

Hermione turned to face them. “Sorry Wes, Dawn, but I had no choice, he was –”

Spike?” Dawn gasped. “Oh my god, Spike, is that you?”

 

Chapter Text

Barty Crouch Jr. leant his head back against the wall, tongue flicking in and out as he replayed the details of what he’d just witnessed.

For two weeks he’d been following Hermione, trying to learn as much as he could about her and especially, the people she lived with.

First get the facts, write down what you know, he’d been told.

And as much as he just loved been ordered about by petite blondes, he had been getting the facts.

But this – this was the first time he’d ever seen Hermione face a vampire. And not just any vampire, but the very same vampire Glory had been looking for. Spike. The one that had been on wanted posters and 'Have You Seen This Vampire?' ads for years.

At first, Barty hadn’t recognised the vampire, dressed as it was in only a jacket; but as he’d followed, it’d slowly occurred to him that the bleached blonde hair, the face, were strangely familiar.

But coming to Hermione’s aid would have been disastrous. She would’ve stunned him without hesitation, he was sure. No matter that he had seen her appear to be helping a vampire – he doubted she would extend the same compassionate courtesy to him. Not if she realised who he was: Barty Crouch Jr, former Death Eater, torturer and murderer, who had kidnapped and impersonated her Dark Arts professor.

So he had remained invisible, while Hermione turned and ran for her life. When Spike chased her, he’d had a hard time racing to keep up.

Barty reflected that it’d been quite a surprise, to find that she too had learned wandless magic.

He had no recollection of what she’d been like before – there was still so much he’d been unable to remember of his short time teaching at Hogwarts – but he was certain her magic hadn’t been anything as strong as this.

Hermione had invited Spike into her house, but Barty surmised she would only have done that if she was certain she could contain him. He wondered how the others she lived with would be coping with her ‘guest’. He had a faint suspicion she might have done this before, but why… it was a mystery. Unless it was to kill them. Which made no sense, for if she had the magical strength to apparate, then she could easily end its existence with a simple Confringo, incinerating it on the spot.

In any case, Barty wasn’t going to do anything about it just now. He wasn’t ready.

Slowly, he slid off the wall and started to stride out of the alleyway, thinking about Hermione. He’d only just discovered Hermione Granger’s existence in this world two weeks ago, and even then only by accident – he had been trying to find out more about the other girl.

The one who looked a lot like Dawn Summers.

For five years, he’d thought he was the only one from his world. He’d firmly believed he was all alone. He hadn’t even stopped to consider that there might’ve been someone else. And to discover that not only was there someone else, and that that someone was Hermione Granger, but that she – like him – had learned to cope without a wand... it boggled his mind.

 


 

As Barty walked the silent streets, he remembered the first time he tried serious magic without his wand.

It was fortunate, actually, that he’d practiced wandless magic at all in those early days; it had since saved his life more times than he could count.

He recalled how he’d been spat out from the sky to fall, naked and wandless, in an unharvested cornfield miles from anywhere.

He’d walked through icy rain all night until at sunrise he saw, in the distance, a derelict old farmhouse.

Too cold and hungry by then to care for niceties, he’d eagerly broken in, wrapped himself in a dirty old blanket left behind on a piss-stained bed, and rummaged the dusty cupboards for anything edible. He found several tins of dubious muggle food, the labels of which were torn and faded; though he could just make out a picture of a stupid-looking dog on some of them. He managed enough magic to crack them open to eat.

He'd remained there for days, trying to get his bearings. He'd had no idea what had happened, or where he was. Or even why.

All he knew then was that one moment, he'd been taking the opportunity to insinuate himself further into Potter’s graces, by pretending to comfort Granger when she was faffing about over some idiot boy or other, and the next… he was falling into a cornfield.

When a vampire had come, intent on making a meal of him, he’d successfully stunned it.

It had been a point of pride for him, that he was strong enough to do so – he hadn’t really done any wandless magic since he was a child.

Once he’d stunned the creature unconscious, he’d stripped it, grateful to discard the blanket that had been his sole covering. The clothes the creature wore weren’t what he would’ve preferred, but at least they didn’t smell as bad as the blanket. He even found he could fit into its sneakers.

When it woke, he discovered the creature could talk, and forced it to answer his questions. He provoked it to see it change, fascinated by its fangs and bumps. Fed it different kinds of blood, and observed the effects. He even used it for target practice inbetween questions, concentrating on the sensation of channelling magic through his hands; a very useful thing.

But most importantly, Barty used it to learn about the new world he’d been dropped into.

Apparently, about seven months before his arrival, portals had been opening up spontaneously and without warning in the area, though the local authorities persisted in denying the obvious.

The portals had appeared out of nowhere, swallowing up people or dumping nightmarish beasts in their wake.

The vampire had gasped out that there were dozens of creatures in the area, roaming free because no one cared enough to capture or kill them.

When it was time to get rid of the vampire, he’d taken it into the nearest town and let it out into a crowd of muggles. Just for fun. So he could watch in secret as bloodlust overwhelmed the starving creature. The screams and shrieks as it tried to grab and bite and snap.

But that had been a mistake.

He wasn’t sure how it’d happened, but he’d discovered that somehow, in the short time he’d been in this new world, he’d developed… a distaste for it: the screams, the terror… it just wasn’t the thrill he expected it to be. The idea of all those muggles being murdered seemed pointless.

Especially when there was no Dark Lord to see it.

No one to give their approval for it.

No real reason for them to die needlessly.

So he’d ended the creature’s rampage the kindest way he could think of, with a short and sharp dark curse that twisted its neck. He stood there, silently contemplating his newly discovered indifference to muggles as the vampire’s dust settled on his sneakers.

And then he heard the crowd around him.

“He saved us!” Whispers all about him. “That man saved us!”

With horror, Barty realised they could see him.

They were looking at him.

His invisibility charm had faded, and they were looking at him.

He’d never seen people looking at him quite like that before. It took him a few seconds to realise that the looks on their faces weren’t disgust or fear. No, they were looking at him like he was a hero. With looks of awe. Of gratitude.

Muggles in uniforms had come and taken him away after that.

Barty hated those memories most of all.

He knew he’d been terrified.

He'd thought that they were going to send him back to his own world, back to Azkaban, and he’d screamed and fought and tried to kill them. They’d shoved him in a cell, not even bothering to remove his cuffs, and left him alone.

Isolated and terrified, it hadn’t taken long for the voices to find him.

“Barty! Barty!” They giggled shrilly. “Time to get kissed by Dementors!”

The voices would leave when the muggles came to check on him, something that almost made him grateful to them.

One of the muggles, whose badge identified him as Officer King, kinder than the rest, brought him a meal. “It’s a good thing it was us who was called to pick you up, and not the Slayers. They would’ve sent you straight to the slave-makers.”

Barty had no idea what he was talking about, and the food was awful, but he remained silent. It was the best form of gratitude he could give.

After the muggle left, the voices started again, growing in volume until Barty felt like screaming.

“If only that nice muggle knew how many of them you’d be willing to kill…” The voices laughed. “How many you’d explode, pretty gizzards and lovely innards, bouncing on the ground…”

For the first time in a long time, he didn’t agree. “That was before.”

“Barty the hero! Barty the hero!” The voices mocked. “But we know the truth!”

He wrapped his arms around his head, trying to shut them out, unaware his cot had started to grow hot.

“Save them, Barty!” They cried.

A small flame flickered at the edge of the cot.

“Save them…” Peals of laughter. “Like you saved them from Bellatrix!”

The flames were licking at his legs by the time he realised there was a fire in his cell.

In the chaos that followed, an alarm shattered the silence that was so loud he felt like being sick, and suddenly his cell was full of people.

Barty was shoved unceremoniously on his face and kept there with a heavy knee in his back, while they sprayed white foam on the fire to put it out.

“What the actual fuck –” one of them panted.

“We need to call a shrink. We’re just not equipped to deal with this shit,” said another. “Leave him here. Not gonna let him burn another cell. I’ll see if Sarge can make some calls.”

When they came to take him from his cell, nothing had prepared him for who he was about to meet, or the direction his life was going to take in the years that followed.

 

Chapter Text

PREVIOUSLY…

A woman came in through the kitchen, pulling on a worn dressing gown, before stopping in shock when she saw the vampire.

Hermione turned to face them. “Sorry Wes, Dawn, but I had no choice, he was –”

“Spike?” Dawn gasped. “Oh my god, Spike, is that you?”

 


 

Spike winced with pain as her voice stabbed through his skull, but the excitable woman just didn’t seem to notice.

“SPIKE!”

“Shhh!” Hermione warned. “Dawn! Keep it down!”

“But – it’s SPIKE!” She cried.

“Piss OFF!” He snarled. Her volume was really setting his teeth on edge.

The room was suddenly silent.

Dawn stood perfectly still, her mouth still half-open. “S-Spike?” She asked tentatively.

“Yeah, yeah, that’s me!” Spike showed his fangs. “Heard of me, have you?”

“Spike. It’s me. Dawn.”

“Who?”

“Dawn. You know….Nibblet.”

Spike was silent.

She swallowed, as though about to say something difficult. “Buffy’s sister?”

“Bollocks.” He scoffed. “Buffy doesn’t have a sister.”

“She does.” Dawn drew in a breath. “She did. I’m her sister.”

“Oh, well then, thank God!” Spike exclaimed sarcastically, letting his demon face instantly melt away. “Goldilocks has a baby sister. Great. Now how bout you see your way to lettin’ me outta these things.”

“Don’t you know me?”

"Wouldn't mind knowin' yer." Spike ran his eyes up and down her figure before leering. "Maybe if you let me go, I could let you get to know me better too."

He ran a tongue slowly over his fangs. She was definitely a lot more his style than the witch, once she'd stopped shrieking his name, he decided. With her hair and her eyes, that reminded him with a pang of Dru, he thought she wouldn't be that bad. The other one, the witch, looked so brittle she'd snap if she had to tie her own shoelaces.

Dawn looked sick.

It was not a reaction Spike was used to. Usually women – even the ones who ended up being his victims – melted when he laid on the charm. Must be the Slayer's sister after all, he figured. Buffy had never been impressed with him either, even when he’d been on her side against Angeles.

“Where did he come from?” Wes asked in wonder. “And why… why is he wearing your jacket?”

“He was naked.” Hermione answered with a pointed look.

All three of them looked at Spike even more intently.

Their looks made Spike feel distinctly weird.

“Look, it’s not unusual to pass out naked after a bender...” he tried to recover some of his swagger. “’Sides, don’t mind showing off the goods. A girl might want to see what she’s missin’.” He wriggled under the thick ropes and raised an eyebrow.

“So you were unconscious?” Wes pressed, ignoring Spike’s innuendo. “Did you have anything else go missing, any items you normally carry on your person?”

“What, apart from being starkers?” Spike thought of his chip, but kept that one to himself.

“Jewellery.” Dawn said impatiently. “Didn’t you used to wear a big ugly skull ring?”

“Oi! It wasn’t ugly!”

“Unconsciousness, nudity, memory loss upon waking…” Wes exchanged another glance with Hermione. “Sound familiar?”

“And loss of inorganic or manufactured objects.” Hermione added ruefully. “Like wands.”

“Spike’s come here through a portal,” nodded Dawn. “Just like you, Hermione.”

 


 

Barty passed a Slayer, speaking urgently into her commwatch while another two waited. They neither saw nor heard a thing as he skirted around them; even though the strength of his invisibility spell made the crackling voice on her commwatch snap in and out of signal.

“…military grade my ass.” The Slayer muttered.

The other two started to bicker.

Barty continued on, thanking Merlin once more that he’d mastered wandless invisibility charms.

 


 

 

“So can we really be sure it’s the real Spike?” Hermione looked between Dawn and the man with the glasses. “Does it look like him, Wes?”

“I’ve only ever seen pictures. Dawn’s the only one who can tell us for sure.”

“What’re you lot talking about?” Spike glared.

“I don’t know anymore,” Dawn began to walk slowly towards the blonde vampire. “I don’t know if it is him.”

“What?” Spike sputtered. “Of course I’m Spike.”

“Travelling through a portal, he might’ve lost his memories of you.” Hermione observed. “But he could still be the same Spike.”

“He… looks like Spike.” Dawn studied him. “He’s got the scar in the right place.”

“Well of course I look like him. I am him!” Spike snapped.

“I know a spell that’ll make him recover his memories.” Hermione raised her hands. “I’ve never tried it without a wand, but … I guess I could try it with my hands.”

“Come closer,” Spike’s eyes flashed amber. “And you can try it with no hands.”

“No, Hermione.” Wes stepped towards her. “Save your hands the ache.”

“He talks like him,” Dawn swallowed, walking slowly around him. “He looks like him. But I don’t know if it is him. What if it’s a Spike from another universe? Another timeline?”

“Why wouldn’t it be me?” Inspiration struck. “Look, give us a chance. I’m sorry… I’m so sorry for being a… a jerk. It’s just, you’re right. I think I’ve lost my memories. I don’t know anything about how I got here, and everything’s so confusing…”

He watched as Dawn became uncertain.

“I know you musta missed me…”

Dawn’s blue eyes filled with pain, and Spike knew he had her.

“Please… Nibblet.”

A small hiccupping sound escaped, and she pressed a hand to her mouth.

He flicked a brief glance at the other two.

Once she released him, he’d have to move fast; take out the witch first, and then the git. Snap their necks. And then – then, he could take his time and savour the Slayer’s sister.

He put on his most earnest I’m-really-a-good-guy face.

“Look, Buffy’s yer sister, yeah?” Spike asked softly. “Well, maybe if you told me some more stuff about her, I might be able to remember some things… and her mates, Red and… and, uh, Harris – they’re friends of mine, too, aren’t they? You lemme go,” his eyes glittered, “And we can all sit down and have a nice stroll down memory lane together.”

The tears that seconds ago had threatened to fall from those thick lashes suddenly evaporated, and Spike knew instinctively he’d somehow made a mistake.

“Willow and Xander are dead.” Her face became a cold mask. “And Buffy may as well be.”

“Dawn –” Wes started to move towards her, but Dawn stepped back and pursed her lips.

“No. It might be the right Spike, it might not be, but until he gets his memory back – if he gets his memory back – we can’t trust him.” She said calmly. “We can’t let him go.”

“Oh, balls.” Spike groaned.

Nodding once at Hermione, she added, “We’ll talk about that memory spell later. But I need some time to think first.” Then she turned and left the room.

“Alright,” Wes grimaced. “Hermione, let’s put him under.”

“With pleasure,” She answered.

Chapter Text

LATER…

Back at Command Centre, Nisha had been sitting comfortably for the better part of the night, holding an icepack to her head. She'd been using her other hand to comfort herself with a rather large apple turnover (with extra whipped cream) that she'd snagged from off of another Slayer's desk, when she heard Simone's angry voice.

"Where the fuck is she?" Simone Doffler, her stiff pink hair cresting her head like a Roman Centurion's galea, stormed into the room in a savage fury.

"Is this true?" Simone shouted. "You saw him? You saw Spike?"

Nisha blinked, the turnover dropping from her fingers. "I didn't know it was –"

"A vampire, matching the description of the same one Glory's offering a huge reward for – British, bleached blonde hair, most likely to be falling from out of a portal – appears. Right after we get reports of a portal, and in the same vicinity. You run into him. Alone. And then… he gets away?"

Nisha shifted the icepack and scowled. "He was all beat up. He had no clothes on."

Simone leaned over and smacked her across the head.

"Ow!" Nisha cried.

"Everyone who comes through a portal has no clothes on, fucktard!" Simone scolded.

"I thought he was a slave. He had bruises all over his face."

"Uh huh. And yet this naked, beat up 'slave' managed to overpower you and get away?"

"He had help!" She protested.

"Why were you alone? O'Connor's supposed to be your partner. Weren't you supposed to be investigating the Weston case together?"

Nisha looked away and mumbled something under her breath.

"What was that?" Simone cupped a hand to her ear. "Sorry, did you say something?"

"He's a tool." She muttered sullenly.

Simone punched her in the mouth. "You fucked up." She said coldly.

Nisha wiped the blood from her mouth. "How was I –?"

"You fucked up." She hissed. "I don't care if you're partnered with one of Glory's brainsucked idiots, you're meant to stay together. Not go off on your own."

"But, Simone –"

"I don't wanna hear it! Because of your stupidity, we lost an opportunity. I mean, it's bad enough that we still can't find Dawn Summers. Two years since she was last seen, in this tiny fucking town, and we still can't find her. Do you know how many of us Glory's killed?"

Nisha started to speak but Simone ignored her.

"Twenty-seven. Twenty-fucking-seven. One Slayer every month we don't produce that little bitch." She collapsed in a chair and leant on her knees, head in hands. "And the one time, the one time we get close to actually being able to end this damn farce, and produce something that could get us in to see Glory without being killed or brain-sucked, and you fuck. It. Up."

Nisha hunched down in her chair, holding the icepack to her mouth.

"FUCK!" Simone sprung up and paced about the room, thinking furiously. "I promised." Simone muttered, rubbing the back of her neck as she paced. "I promised myself, I wouldn't do it again. I wouldn't let one more of us get brain-sucked. Not one more."

Nisha studied the carpet uncomfortably.

"I'm gonna have to do it." She stopped pacing. "I don't want to do it, but there's no other way. We're gonna need her." She ran her fingers over her stiff pink hair.

"Her? You mean… her her?"

Simone didn't answer, just resumed pacing again slowly. "I know what she's gonna say. What she's gonna ask."

"What?"

"Shut it, Nisha." She rounded on Nisha, fury rising again. "It's bad enough you let him get away, but you went and logged it too. What the hell were you thinking?"

"But you said we all had to do better with logging our field reports –"

Simone raised her fist. Nisha shut it.

"We can't delete that report now, moron! It'll be too late. We have only an hour, two at most, before those little scabs of Glory's, come bumbling around here asking us where this blonde British vampire that sounds a lot like Spike is. And if we don't have something to give them, they'll be taking one of us instead – and there goes our chance."

Nisha saw the look in her boss' eye. "So what...what are we gonna do?"

"What I said. Get her to help us." She ran her fingers over her hair again, lingering at the back of her neck as she gazed up at the ceiling and blew out a stream of air. "She'll make me crawl and say I'm sorry and I was wrong and she was right and all that bullshit. But…we'll do what she wants. We gotta get to that vampire first, because right now he's our only ticket to an up close and personal interview with Glory."

 


 

Inspector O'Connor was asleep when his commwatch lit up green and an angry voice crackled through its tiny speaker.

"O'Connor!"

Swearing, he fumbled for his lamp and looked at the time, blinking in the dull yellow light.

"O'Connor, pick up, it's Simone!"

He groaned and rolled onto his back.

"O'Connor!"

He grabbed the thing and stabbed at the buttons. "It's 6am, dammit! I'm in bed!"

"I don't give a f-"

"I did graveyard shift, Simone. I got home an hour ago. Find someone else."

"LIAM O'CONNOR!" Simone screeched. "GET YOUR ASS UP OUT OF BED!"

"What the hell is it that's got your panties in a twist?"

"Don't even talk about my panties! Spike was seen last night."

"Spike?"

"Blonde vampire, British accent. You know the drill – whenever we see a male blonde vampire, they're to be questioned immediately. On the spot." Simone drew in a deep breath. "But this time, there's a strong chance it's the real Spike. Nisha found him not far from reports of that portal."

"What!? Why didn't she tell me this?"

"I'm telling you now. It was Nisha's fuck-up, she's your partner, so get your ass down to St Aubins Street, ASAP."

"What the hell do you want me to do there?

"Knock on doors! Ask questions! Start doing your job!"

Simone ended the call abruptly.

He drew in a breath.

And let it out. "Fuuucccck."

There was a slight rustle, a familiar creak on the floorboards outside the bedroom door.

"It's alright, come in." He called out.

He covered himself with his sheet as the woman came softly into the room.

"Did you hear? I've been called in again. Simone thinks Spike's come back. And this close to where they live... it's just too coincidental."

He looked into the thoughtful grey eyes, and couldn't help a wry smile.

"I'm sorry. I thought about what you said before… and I think you're right. I think Dawn is hiding with Fred and Wes. Which means if Spike's there too... she won't be safe for much longer. Not if they're combing the streets looking for him."

He sighed, leaning back against the bedhead.

"But I can't go in there without some kind of pretext. Simone will get suspicious. And... honestly, I don't know if I can trust Wes with the truth. He could be killing vampires for all I know. Or selling them to the Slavemakers." He looked away. "It's not like they tried to save Harmony when Nisha found her hiding in the high school that night..."

He lapsed into silence.

The woman cleared her throat. "I could go with you -"

"No." He put up a hand. "No, you can't come with me. You've got too much on your plate already."

The woman shifted on her feet, deep in thought again.

"What am I gonna do?" He muttered.

"Angel," she said finally. "We must tell the others. We must tell Buffy."

"I know." He sighed again and rubbed at his eyes. "I know we're gonna have to tell them. We need to have a plan."

Chapter Text

Spike dreamt.

Jumbled dreams, simultaneously frightening and confusing.

The only bit of the dream he could remember later was the part where he was running up to the top of a rickety metal tower to rescue someone… only the stairs just kept multiplying, more and more of them, and he was running in slow motion, and he wasn't going to get there in time, and someone was going to die… and then he was falling..

He woke a split second before he hit the ground.

For a horrible few seconds, he flailed, jerking the chains on his wrists. Severely disoriented, he puzzled over the fact that he seemed to be chained and caged in someone's basement… until he remembered the events of the night before. Sitting up, he groaned.

The door to his cage was open.

"Slowly." Hermione was standing some feet away. "If I see even one fang, I'll burn you where you stand."

When they reached the top of the stairs, she pushed him towards the dingy kitchen. Wes and Dawn were seated at the small table, each picking at a small hard bread roll on their plates. A third woman was standing with her back to him, fussing with something in the microwave. She turned as Hermione shoved him perfunctorily into a chair.

"Hi Spike!" She beamed. "I'm Fred."

Spike cocked his eyebrow. "Yeah. Great." He looked around. "Well, this is a charming family gathering. Special occasion?"

Hermione poked him in the back of the neck. "Remember what I said."

Fred placed a steaming mug of blood in front of him. "We're leaving. You'll be coming with us, so you'll need your strength."

Spike looked suspiciously at the mug in front of him. "What's this?"

"Nothing." Dawn said quickly. "It's just old blood we had in the fridge."

"Old blood?" Spike folded his arms. "Don't want it."

Fred sighed. "It's not old. Dawnie made a special trip to get fresh blood from the hospital, even remembered your favourite bloodtype."

Dawn snuck a glance at Wes, who was looking horrified, and tensed.

"What?" Wes stared at the blood in Spike's mug. "When was this?"

"This morning."

A tight silence stretched out, before Wes finally said, "I thought, after last time, you weren't going to steal blood anymore. Dawn, you and Hermione both agreed there wouldn't be any more vampire rescues or blood stealing or – or anything that would draw attention to us."

"There wasn't enough blood left." Dawn's voice was clipped. "So I got some more for Spike."

Wes rubbed his eyes. "Dawn. Last time you did that, you were seen."

"It was two weeks ago." She folded her arms. "And we needed it. If that guy was gonna report it, he would've done it by now and someone would've already come."

"It's still blood," Hermione tapped Spike's shoulder. "So drink up. This'll be the last time you get anything for a few days."

"Not really a fan of bagged, and I'm not a fan of happy-crappy family car trips either," he took in their drawn faces. "What's happened that's got you lot running off?"

Dawn grimaced. "There's just been more Slayers around lately, and they're getting worse, because they're looking for –"

"Dawn." Wes warned.

Dawn dropped her eyes to the fascinating texture of the table top.

Spike opened his mouth to speak, but another poke in the back of his neck, followed by Hermione's inexorable "Drink," changed his mind.

He drank the blood. He had to admit, it wasn't too bad.

Meanwhile, Dawn picked at her meagre rations, while Wes chewed the stale bread like a man with a purpose. Spike guessed Wes' purpose was trying to stop himself from saying something he knew he'd regret later.

When Spike finished, another mug of blood was placed in front of him. He had no choice, with the witch right behind him, so he started to drink that one too.

But before Spike was even halfway through the second mug, Wes finally succumbed in spite of his better judgement.

"You know, Dawn, I really wish you'd come and discuss it with me first before you rushed into –"

"Stop it, Wes!" Hermione was defensive. "No one saw Dawn. I made sure."

"We appreciate that you both have so much courage…" Fred put her bread down.

"It's just that," Wes continued, "Your actions in rescuing Spike have put us all in a predicament that requires us to leave, and we don't even know where we can go."

"Not that we haven't prepared for this." Fred said gently. "But you know how tricky the next few days are going to be. We can't afford to slip up. And we won't be able to smuggle Spike to the refugee camps across the border, either." She looked between Dawn and Spike. "You're both too recognisable. No matter what we decide to do, it's going to be risky."

Hermione was firm. "I've made enough potion to last us. We've all tested it, we'll be fine."

Spike, for the first time in a long time, wisely held his tongue; pretending that he was absolutely not listening as he sipped at the cooling blood in his mug.

"Still," Wes couldn't let it drop, "I do wish you'd ask for my opinion first sometimes."

"I would've." Hermione finally sat down on the other side of Spike, and looked at Wes. "I would've – but... it was Nisha."

"Nisha." Wes' voice was cold.

Spike couldn't help a small glance up, shrewdly absorbing the multiple reactions around the table at the name.

"I thought she'd been transferred." Fred was horrified. "Why didn't you tell us this before? After what she tried to do to that poor vampire girl…"

"Well, she's back," Hermione said tonelessly, "If she ever really left in the first place. And she was… arresting… Spike. I got him away."

"How did you get him away…?" Wes asked.

Spike couldn't resist.

"Hit her in the head with a brick," he smirked. "Right viciously too."

"You what?"

Hermione lifted her chin. "I hit her, Wes. I didn't kill her. I just hit her hard enough to knock her out."

"Mmm, yeah, not like you stayed around long enough to actually know if you killed her or not," Spike laughed, until Hermione shot him a dark look.

"When you said you'd rescued him from a Slayer last night," Wes stared, "I thought you'd just … altered the Slayer's memory or…" His tone turned incredulous. "You just hit her? You hit Nisha?"

Spike grinned into his mug.

"I … I should've thought about obliviating her." Hermione blushed. "It's just… I panicked. I saw Nisha, I saw what she was… what was happening, I saw the brick… and I just did it."

Fred sighed. "Oh, Hermione –"

"That was very dangerous." Wes said quietly. "You've seen Nisha become… unhinged before."

"I wish you guys had let me come out that night!" Dawn suddenly pouted. "I could've worn the invisibility cloak, no one would've seen me!"

Fred shuddered. "It's not something you would've wanted to see."

"But you've never said exactly why. You always say it was bad, but, I mean, why can't you tell me about what happened that night?"

"We didn't tell you because we knew you'd find a way to blame yourself Dawn. And none of it, none of it, is your fault." Wes looked her squarely in the eye. "Do you really want to know?"

Dawn nodded, her eyes round.

Spike leant back, clearly ready to enjoy hearing about a bit of violence.

"That night we told you to stay in? Nisha found a vampire hiding in the old high school basement. She dragged her out into front of the whole street, tied her to a streetlight, ripped her clothes off, and said that until …" Wes suddenly faltered.

"Nisha said," Hermione continued the story, "That until someone came to claim the vampire as their slave, the vampire would be a street whore. And every man there had to treat her like a whore while she watched, or else Nisha would call more Slayers and start to arrest people. She knew the vampire wasn't a slave. She was counting on people to be afraid enough to do what she said."

"Some of them... some of them started..." Wes choked. "I"ve never been more ashamed of being a man in my life."

"It's the one time that A –" Fred corrected herself. "That O'Connor did the right thing. He arrived out of nowhere, and claimed the vampire as his slave. Nisha was mad, but she couldn't say anything. Not against her own partner."

"O'Connor." Hermione scoffed. "He never thinks of anyone but himself. I'd hate to think what it'd be like, being his slave. Probably makes her run out to buy his stupid hair gel every day."

"Still better than the alternative." Fred said softly, before turning to Wes. "But you can't blame Hermione for rescuing Spike. Or Dawn for taking a risk to get him blood."

Fred reached out a hand, softly squeezing Wes' fingers between hers. He looked up at her, and a strange look of pain spasmed across his face, as though remembering something deeply unpleasant.

"That night..." Fred continued gently, "Was the night we decided to help the vampires. We agreed we'd never stand idly by again. And I promised myself that if I was ever in that same situation again, I'd do something to stop it. I'd even put myself in danger, especially if it means saving someone from… from that. We can't forget, Wes, Spike's a victim too. They're all victims. What the Slayers do to them – it makes me sick."

Spike finished his blood in silence, trying to keep his face from betraying the unwelcome feelings of warmth Fred's words stirred in him.

Chapter Text

Suddenly there came a pounding at the front door.

Fred and Wes shot out of their seats. In a flurry of soundless communication, Wes disappeared down the short corridor to the front door. He came back a moment later to whisper, with a significant look, “It's O’Connor.”

Hermione stifled a groan.

Dawn froze, startled into stillness, until Fred pressed a hand on her shoulder and nodded towards one of the rooms. Dawn instantly left and returned with a loaded crossbow.

Hermione took the mug from Spike. “Bedroom,” She hissed. “Now.”

Dawn was there in an instant, the crossbow pressed at Spike’s back.

“Get up!” She commanded.

Looking at her, he saw something of Buffy in her face, and wondered again why the Slayer had hidden her sister from the world. Bit of a waste, in his opinion; she was a tough little bird when she needed to be.

“Hurry.” Dawn motioned him towards one of the bedrooms.

Once they were in, she made Spike stand in the middle of the room and kept her crossbow pointed at him. She leaned up against the door, listening, but her eyes and her crossbow did not waver from Spike.

There was the sound of pounding on the front door again, followed by bolts being drawn back and the squeak of a door opening.

“Inspector O’Connor. Isn’t it unusual for you to be paying house calls this close to curfew?” Wes was saying.

“Not at all. You know as well as I do, Wes, evil never rests.”

“Inspector.” The witch’s icy response would’ve even made Spike hesitate, but not this Inspector.

“Hermione. Just the person I wanted to see. No, no, let’s all sit down. I wanna aim to keep this friendly, alright?”

The voice was annoyingly familiar. Spike frowned as he searched his sluggish memory. There came the sound of chairs scraping against the wooden floorboards, and the creak and rustle of people sitting down.

“What did you wish to know, Inspector?” Hermione was asking.

There was a lengthy pause.

“Where were you last night?”

“She was working.”

“I think she can answer for herself, Fred.”

“Like she said. I was working.”

“Ah yes. At the drop-in centre?”

“Yes.”

“Until what time?”

“Six.”

“And you walked home alone?”

“Yes.”

“You didn’t see anything unusual?”

“No.”

“Nothing out of the ordinary happened?”

“No.”

Nothing extraordinary? Strange? Weird?”

“No.”

Another pause.

“It’s funny. I’ve interviewed several people today, and all of them experienced something unusual. All of them told me there was a sound, like –” The Inspector paused and there came the sound of a notepad being opened, “‘An earthquake in the air’. Sent shockwaves out for blocks. There was even a patrolling Slayer who confirmed the incident.”

No one answered. Spike felt his brain itch as he tried to place the voice.

“And this incident occurred at approximately…” A rustle as a page was turned, “6:32pm, on the same route that you take home every time you work late, Hermione.” The voice turned smoother than ever. “You see, I know which way you go home. I know how long it takes you. And I know you were right there, at the exact same time of the incident.”

Yet another pause.

“So, you wanna revise your bullshit statement?”

No one answered.

“I mean, I’d hate to have to arrest you for lying to me, Hermione. So why don’t you just tell me what you know, and I’ll overlook your falsehood – just this time.”

Spike heard someone take a deep breath.

“No.”

“No?”

“No. I’m not gonna ‘revise my statement’.” Spike could hear the effort to keep calm in her voice.

“You know what I can do to you.”

“Yes, I do.” A small pause. “And you know what? You’re pathetic.”

Hermione!” Fred was shocked.

“No, I’ve had enough.”

“Hermione –” Wes warned.

“No, go ahead.” The Inspector goaded her. “I’m always interested in the opinions of the little people.”

“You’re pathetic! You strut about, flashing your precious badge, harassing people and dragging away defenceless slaves. You think you’re really important, being able to put chains on those poor vampires. Must make you feel really big. Well, let me tell you, I’ve seen vampires and they used to be strong and terrifying and fierce… and amazing. Able to kill hundreds in a night. But you’re just a small-minded, petty little man. I bet if you ever actually met one, a real one, you would pee your little man pants.”

“I think now might be a good time –” began Wes, but Hermione cut him off.

“How do you sleep at night, with all those innocent people being taken away?”

“Hermione, please stop!” Wes pleaded.

“No, let her talk,” came the Inspector’s voice. “This is really entertaining.”

Hermione’s fury rose. “Oh, I can get it. Really. Self-preservation. You made a deal with them, became their informant, rose up through the ranks,” Hermione’s voice rose even louder above the others attempts to stop her, “And in exchange for keeping us in line, they let you get all the perks.”

“Okay, I think we all need to take a deep breath, and maybe start over.” Fred was trying to calm everybody. “Hermione doesn’t know –”

“I know enough. I’ve seen enough.”

“And so have I.” The Inspector replied. “Don’t forget I’m an Inspector. One word from me, and I could have you all killed.” The sound of him snapping his fingers. “Like that. So how about you be a good girl for daddy and just tell me where you’ve hidden that little runaway vampire, and I’ll forget all about your lies.”

Spike froze.

Daddy… Daddy!?

Oh bloody buggering hell.

Dawn closed her eyes and leant her forehead against the door.

“Oh, shit.” She whispered. "She's gonna kill him now."

A chair was scraped back suddenly.

Hermione had stood up, and in her crisp English accent, said curtly, “Well, Inspector O’Connor, you can just - go fuck yourself.”

The Inspector suddenly laughed, as though delighted by what she’d just said.

A hundred memories of that particular laugh assaulted Spike all at once.

Angeles.

Spike groaned.

Why did it take me so long? Bloody Angeles.

He should’ve recognised that voice anywhere!

And then pandemonium broke out.

There was the sound of a chair falling backwards, and a cry of pain. Dawn leapt out of the room at the sound without a moment’s hesitation, seemingly forgetting all about Spike in her fear for Hermione.

“Stop him!” Wesley was shouting.

“Flipendo!” Hermione cried.

Something crashed into the wall right on the other side of Spike’s bedroom, and there was the sound of someone struggling to cry out.

"Don't let him use his commwatch!"

“Elly -”

“Silencio! Immobulus!”

There was an ominous thump.

"Do it, Dawn," Hermione was saying, and Spike could almost imagine Dawn aiming the crossbow at Angeles' heart, ready to dust him.

But then, “Wait. Where’s Spike?”

A pause.

"It's okay. I'll take care of him."

Spike panicked.

They’d killed Angeles.

They'd killed Angeles and now they were gonna kill him.

He looked all around the room for a way out, but there was none.

All the windows had been boarded up.

He would not be able to get even one board off before the witch stopped him.

Or he got a crossbow bolt in the heart too.

“Hang on, I’ve got an idea,” he heard the witch say quietly, even as footsteps approached the bedroom.

He had to get out.

“Cut it.”

Spike broke out in a strange sweat.

“We can use this.”

The doorhandle was turning.

He had to get out.

“Alright, Hermione, I’ve got this, you go help Dawn sort out Spike. We don’t have much time.”

Bugger.

Black lines started to waver at the edge of his vision.

The room was expanding.

No, he was shrinking: huge invisible hands were squeezing him into thick gooey dough.

The witch must be doing this! She’d already zapped Angeles with her weird mojo, cut pieces of him off for sick souvenirs  and now she was gonna do him too!

He tried to scream but his throat was ice cold, his vision was going dark, and he was being compressed into himself, until he was no bigger than the size of his fist, the size of his heart...

“Spike!” A fading voice cried. “Hermione, Spike’s –”

 


 

Spike was swallowed into nothingness. He floated for a long time in the thick, gooey grey, formless, floating.

“Spike.”

He began to feel a light pressure around him.

“Spike.”

The grey began to clear.

“SPIKE!” A voice pierced through. “Go get Dawn!”

And then he was suddenly in his body again – but he was not in control. Someone else was moving his arms and legs. For some reason he was trying to push his way through a crowd of slack-jawed humans at the base of a tower.

He looked up to the top. He could just make out the two people who were up there, a girl and a man.

A familiar sounding voice came into his head. Get up there. Go now. GO!

And then, miraculously, the crowd was parted as though by an invisible force, and he was running through them vaulting up the metal steps, up, up, up… he didn’t know why or how, but whoever was in charge of his body had one single purpose in mind: to save her.

Who ‘her’ was, he had no idea.

But he caught another glimpse of the young girl as he ran up the final ramp, at the very top, bound like Andromeda on the rock awaiting the sea serpent.

Spike hurtled up the ladder and stood on the gangplank.

The girl was terrified.

“Spike!” She screamed.

But between him and her was the man with a long knife. Seeing Spike, the man didn’t hesitate: he cruelly slashed the girl, sending her blood in a spray through the air, falling in a heavy mist through the hole in the gangplank at her feet.

Spike roared and charged, but the man was faster. And stronger. He sidestepped the enraged vampire, plunged the knife into his back and then used Spike’s momentum to simply shove him off balance at the edge.

Spike scrabbled to turn and save himself, but he was too late.

The second it took for him to teeter over the edge was an eternity as he stared helplessly into the girl’s blue eyes…

It was Buffy’s sister.

Spike gaped, his own consciousness surging forward to overtake the mysterious other.

You?” he exclaimed.

And then he fell.

 

Chapter Text

 

TWO YEARS EARLIER…

Elara fell to her knees, breathing hard.

She was naked.

Wiping at her mouth, she saw the smear of red on the back of her hand. She lifted her head, took in her surroundings. A deserted street. A burning, smouldering city. She tasted the air between her lips. Petroleum, carbon monoxide, the faint smell of hot dead flesh and spilled cold blood. She felt the subdued thrumming of evil in the air around her. The dull ebb and roar of battle reverberated through the very ground beneath, making the sharp gravel tremble.

But then Elara heard a different sound. A soft snuffle, then a snort. A ripe stench permeated the air. She turned towards the sound of claws on the tarred street.

It had stopped, some feet in front of her: the wyvern. Filmy yellow crusted its ancient eyes. Foul drool splashed on the ground. It swung its head to one side, fixing her with a baleful stare.

She straightened one leg behind her and slid into a sprinter’s crouch. She touched an index finger to her lips, tasting the dirty black tar. Amongst the bitter tastes strange to her tongue she detected only herself – and that of the wyvern. Her relief showed briefly through a slight quirk of her lips. Elara was alone with her enemy: there were no others to concern her – for now.

The wyvern snorted and scratched at the ground with heavy talons.

“Grimmur.” She called its name softly. “La mort vous accueille.”

It finally shook its great head and crouched, its haunches lowered, muscles rippling gracefully across its shoulders. It tensed to attack, readying itself to breathe fire.

Elara gathered all the energy she could pull into the centre of her being. Then she pushed off of the ground and leapt at the beast’s head. It tossed and rolled its neck but she was quicker. Gripping its spikes she held on; ignoring the sharp pain as its hide scraped across her breast, before ripping into the underside of her arm. She muttered a quick spell and manifested a chain to roll under the beast’s neck. Another few more muttered words, and it tightened. The beast roared and gasped and nearly crushed her as it crashed onto its side, but she managed to jump and roll away, ready should she need to move again. The chain twisted tighter and tighter, until blood oozed out between the links. With one last wheezing gasp, it shuddered and stilled.

Elara stood in silence for a few moments.

She uttered another spell, to begin the dissolution of its body.

A slight breeze caressed her bare skin.

She called the chain to herself. It slid out of the steaming mess on the ground and snapped into her hand. She shook the excess sludge off, watching idly as drops spattered against her grimy feet.

That was when Elara felt it.

A tingling at the back of her neck. It made her jerk her head up and look around. There was a demon close by, the tingling confirmed it… but it was different from what she usually felt when one approached. She closed her eyes to better judge the sensation. A demon, yes… but it was no ordinary demon: an image of a burning light carried within it filled her mind. She opened her eyes and turned in a circle, her intense gaze raking the buildings, searching the shadows.

And there he was.

Her lips quirked into a brief half-smile.

A vampire. With a soul.

He was old, older than any vampire she’d ever known. He was dressed strangely, like the way people had dressed on her home world centuries ago. The sword in his hand tapped against the ground. His face was cut, and blood trickled through his dark hair to soak the collar of his shirt.

“You’re naked.” He said blankly. “You killed a dragon… and you’re naked.”

“Pardon?”

“Wait.” He frowned. “That dragon was mine. I called dibs on it!”

She shook her head. “Anglais?”

“American.” He stared. “You’re French…”

She nodded, as though that made complete sense to her, and began to loop the chain in her hand.

He glanced behind him, where the sounds of grunts, cries and screams of battle crept closer.

He turned back. “Uh…look. Um… there’s fighting…”

Elara frowned as she tried to understand.

He floundered, trying to think best how to communicate to her.

“Over there.” He mimicked stabbing with the sword. “I have to go fight…uh, demons.”

Her grey eyes lit up.

“Démons?” She swept her eyes over him in surprise. “J’ai entendu parler des créatures de la nuit que tuent la chasse le mal rampant des ombres. Êtes-vous comme eux?”

“Um, sorry… it’s been a few decades. My French is kinda rusty.”

“Démons!” Elara parried and thrust into the air at an invisible foe, while making sounds like a tiny dog choking. “J’irai me battre aussi.”

“No! No, you should…um… you might wanna…cover yourself up.” He gestured vaguely towards her. “You know, with the clothes…”

“Clothes?”

He sighed and shrugged his jacket off. “Here. Put this on.”

Elara took a tentative step towards him and stopped.

“It’s alright.” He held it out. “Take it. I have to go back now,” he gestured behind him. “But you should… you should really get somewhere safe.”

“For me…?” She looked up into his face. “Pour quoi?”

“Uh…” He nodded towards her arm, diligently avoiding any eye contact whatsoever with the bloody gash across her naked chest. “You’re... you're bleeding…”

Following the vague direction of his nod, she examined her arm, stretching her elbow up to eye level.

She craned her neck and ran a finger down her skin, trying to feel for the wound.

The vampire didn’t know where to look as she stretched and flexed in front of him.

Her expression cleared when she felt congealing blood on the underside of her arm.

“Ah. Merci.”

She took the jacket, and began to promptly tear a sleeve into strips while the vampire watched in fascinated horror.

“That…that was… an Armani...” He said weakly.

“Armani?” Elara repeated, quickly binding the wound on her arm with the strips she tore.

“Uh, yeah. Never mind.”

“Armani… quel joli prénom.” She winked. “Je m’appelle Elara.”

“Um… no… je suis Angel. Angel.”

“Merci beaucoup, Angel Armani.” She smiled and handed him back the one-armed jacket.

“Uh no… you should keep it.” He gestured helplessly to her. “Put it on. Please."

Elara looked at the ruined jacket. Then she tore the other sleeve off and dropped it on the ground, before slipping the jacket on, swapping her chain from one hand to the other as she did. It came down to the tops of her knees, and barely covered her chest. The newly torn armholes alone were huge. She moved experimentally in it, before deciding to button it as well. Never in his existence did Angel ever think anyone could look so utterly ridiculous and oddly endearing at the same time.

Elara looked up at him and smiled again. “Viens. Accueillons la mort ensemble...” She began to stride towards the sounds of battle, swinging her chain.

“Viens!” She called over her shoulder.

“Right. Um. Okay, then.”

Lifting his sword, he followed her. 

Chapter Text

“O most Beauteous Magnificence!

“O most Decadent Majesty!”

Murk and Jinx prostrated themselves on the Louis XV Savonnerie carpet before the gold steps of their great and glorious Queen’s sumptuous throne.

“O mss slss snsllsss, wrm vv eseev wrrr –” Murk began.

“Oh, do sit up and speak, you scabs.” Glory groaned.

At once they sat up, their diseased-looking grey faces beaming.

“O Most Salacious Sensualness, we have received word from your Servant Slayers in Sunnyd-

Where?”

“Uh, the Transcendent place of your Splendiferous Magnanimity, that now bears your Gracious Name –”

“Alright, get on with it!”

“It’s here, in the municipality of Glorificasa! The Slayers have just called and alerted us to a startling discovery!”

“If it’s not a startlingly amazing pair of shoes, I’m not interested.”

“Oh no, Most Radiant Eminence, Most –”

Impatient, Jinx interrupted him. “They send word that they have located… the vampire!”

“Really?” their Queen looked exasperated. “Another one?”

“But they say that it is the real vampire, with the white-blonde hair! And he has arrived through a portal – just as you predicted he one day would, O Most Sagacious and Wise yet Brilliantly Attired One! The Slayer Servants await your command.”

A pregnant pause followed Jinx’s statement.

“Did you just say – portal?”

The two minions shared a nervous glance. “Indeed, O Queen.”

Glory’s forehead wrinkled in deep contemplation.

“Were there others?”

“I beg your par-”

“Other portals?” She snapped impatiently. “Have there been other portals since then?”

“We… we do not know, O –”

She tapped her fingers on the edge of her throne’s finely wrought gold armrest. “It’s probably nothing then.”

Her brow creased in thought.

Confused, Murk and Jinx did not know what to do. “Would you still like us to bring you this vampire, O Great and Wondrous–?”

“Oh, whatever.” Their Queen flopped back in her throne and sighed loudly. “Go on.”

“Of course, of course –”

“Actually,” Glory thought out loud. “It’s supposed to be warmer there this weekend. You can just bring it there for me tomorrow. But if it’s not the right vampire, I’ll just kill it.”

“Yes, your Majesty –”

“And tell Simone she owes me a meal.”

“We will, O Magnificent Glorificus, we will at once!”

Jinx and Murk bowed and shuffled backwards from the throne room.

 

Chapter Text

Nisha stood and sucked on a cigarette. Her mouth was still visibly bruised from Simone’s fist, no matter that she’d tried to cover it with a smear of concealer that she’d stolen out of someone’s locker at the station. Her mouth hurt, her head hurt, and she was only just holding her fractured patience together.

She hunched her shoulders and squinted through the cigarette smoke as her sister Slayers, Rona and Holly, started to carry out the three unconscious bodies. O’Connor had unexpectedly called in the arrests only half an hour ago, and even though Nisha wanted nothing more than to sleep for a week, Simone had told her to go ‘do something useful’ and drive out the van to collect them.

Rona and Holly had still been patrolling together, so they'd got there before her.

To Nisha's disgust, the stupid bitches were even flirting with O’Connor.

“Nice work,” Holly smiled up into O'Connor's eyes. “Did you use the taser?”

O’Connor paused before answering. “Yeah. Worked a treat.” He winked, making Holly giggle coyly. “We can’t all be Slayers.”

“That you can’t.” Rona smiled as well, as she cheerfully carried the first of the unconscious bodies over her shoulder to the back of the van.

"But I do my best." O'Connor said expansively. "I'm nothing if not thorough."

Nisha took another long drag and blew it out in a hard steady stream, internally thinking of several more choice adjectives that summed up O'Connor, in her opinion, better than 'thorough'.

“So where are you taking them?” Holly called out to him as she came out with the second body. “Straight to the slavery?”

“Command Centre.” O’Connor answered. “These are – sensitive cases. Simone says I get to question these ones personally.”

Nisha folded her arms and hunched even more.

Holly lowered the unconscious body of the frail-looking woman she carried into the back of the van. “Geez, this one looks thin enough to snap.”

“Gently, gently.” O’Connor helped lower the woman’s head down.

Holly looked at him, a puzzled expression on her face. "Does it matter?"

“Can’t bang their heads about too much." O'Connor was terse. "Don’t wanna lose the… information… I need.”

“But that one’s tiny.” Holly huffed, standing close to him as he took over checking the woman’s cuffs. “Hardly seems worth it. What the hell did you arrest them for anyway?”   

“Where do I begin?” O’Connor sounded almost supercilious. “Obstruction of justice, lying to a police officer, vandalism of public property –”

“Boy,” Holly flicked her hair back over her shoulder. “Had no idea you even knew words like that, Liam.”

“Uh.” O’Connor looked stricken, and then quickly recovered. “Well, you know. Not as dumb as I look.”

Holly giggled again.

Nisha rolled her eyes.

“Alright, move it!” Rona ordered them, staggering up to the van under the weight of the man she carried. “Ugh, this dude’s way heavier than he looks.” She grunted as she shoved him in.

“Don’t need to be careful with him.”

O’Connor grinned. “A few more knocks to the head won’t make much difference.” He turned to Holly. “Thanks,” he winked again.

“Alright, whatever.” Rona pulled Holly away. “Off you go, we’ll check the rest of the house.”

Holly gave him one last look over her shoulder, as Rona dragged her back towards the house.

Suddenly Nisha’s commwatch lit up.

“Code 2, Code 2, calling any available Slayers to the town centre. We have a 126. Repeat, we have a 126 near the corner of Main and Elm.”

“You wanna answer that 126 with us?” Rona called, checking her commwatch.

Nisha ground out her cigarette viciously, not looking at any of them. “Simone will want me to stay with O’Connor.”

“Did I just hear – was that a 126?” Holly called from the front door. “Haven’t seen one of those since L.A.”

“Yeah. We’ll have to take it, Hols.” Rona grimaced and spoke into her commwatch. “Command Centre, this is 379.”

“379, go ahead.”

“We can take that 126. We’re on Alma Road, heading on over to Main and Elm.”

“Roger that. Anyone else with you?”

Rona paced in front of the house, continuing to talk into her commwatch as Holly stretched ‘Police Line Do Not Cross’ tape over the door.

O’Connor closed the van doors and finally turned to look at Nisha. “We’re thin on the ground tonight. I can take these. You should go with the others.”

“Simone will be pissed if I don’t stay with you.”

He smirked. “Really? Cause I’ve been doing just fine without you.”

Nisha looked away. “Fuck off, O’Connor.”

“Nice bruise.” He gestured to her chin. “Pity your make-up doesn’t quite cover it. Pissed off Simone, did you? Looks like she didn’t hold back much.”

“Fuck off, O’Connor.”

She shook out her last cigarette from the pack, scrunching up the empty packet in her fist before throwing it on the ground.

O’Connor watched her light up, the flare highlighting the ugly mark around her mouth. He leant in suddenly and placed a meaty hand on her shoulder, the action making her step back unsteadily from him.

“Don’t touch me!” She snapped.

“Aw, come on, sweetheart. I know what you like.” He gave her a little leer. “Fast and rough, that’s you.”

Her eyes could’ve burned holes in him. “You want me to fucking break your arm, O’Connor?”

“Been a long night for you, hasn’t it? You really do look like hell, Nish.”

“Touch me again, and I’ll show you hell.”

He practically purred as he looked her over. “You know, I’m glad you’re letting the others handle that 126. Come back with me. You can sit next to me and watch how real policing is done.”

“I’d rather be stuck with a rusty blade.” Nisha scowled, her eyes starting to slide away to where Rona still stood, talking with Holly.

“Come on, it’ll be fun.” O’Connor bared his teeth in a grin. “Maybe I’ll even let you fill out the paperwork.”

“You know what you can do with your damn paperwork, O’Connor.” She hissed in his face, before spinning around and yelling at the others. “Holly! I’ve changed my mind! I think you’re gonna need an extra set of hands for that 126.”

Holly turned in surprise. “Um. Okay. Sure thing.”

“Suit yourself.” O’Connor smirked and started towards the truck.

Nisha watched him go for a moment. “Let me give you a piece of advice, O’Connor.” She called out after him. “Next time, don’t go in alone.”

He shrugged and opened the driver’s side door, and then just stood there with the door open. Just as if he was waiting for someone to slide in past him.

Nisha shook her head. Was he really thinking he could still try and tempt her to get in?

O’Connor pretended to look nonchalantly down the street, as though something had drawn his interest. After thirty seconds, he pulled a flask from his jacket pocket, and took a gulp, before casually sliding into the driver’s seat.

Provoked, Nisha quickly went over and tapped on his window.

He wound it down slowly. “See that thing?” She stabbed her cigarette towards the commwatch on his wrist. Ash drifted onto his skin. “You fucking use it. I wanna know everything. I even wanna know when you fucking take a dump – every single fucking thing. Got it?”

O’Connor flicked the ash off his skin.

“Nish, I’m flattered. Really. You sure you don’t –”

Nisha jerked her chin at him. “Get the fuck outta here.”

 

Chapter Text

Spike floated, somewhere in the grey, and would’ve liked to have remained there for a lot longer, only he hurt. A lot. Increasingly painful throbbing beat persistently along his bones, and he couldn’t remember ever feeling so much pain - not ever in his existence before.

He groaned and felt his face shift into his demon’s as he unwillingly returned to consciousness.

There were voices around him.

“...see, Dreg! What did I tell you? It’s a vampire!”

Gasps and agreements.

“His face is very bumpy.”

“Definitely vampire.”

“But how did a vampire appear in her Magnificence’s grounds without setting off the alarms?”

“Gronx said he saw him fall from the sky.”

More gasps.

“Do you think it’s… him?”

“I don’t know, Slook.”

“But why would a vampire come here?”

“Maybe it is him.”

“His hair is familiar...I’m sure I’ve seen him before.”

“We should take him to our Supremely Ravishing Glorificus. She will know.”

“But if it isn’t him…”

“Our Exceedingly Marvellous Queen will surely lose her shit and kill one of us.”

Silence.

“Perhaps we should tell Jinx and Murk instead?”

“They’re not here. They left to visit the Slayers…”

Spike blinked slowly and opened his eyes.

“Look! It wakes!”

A scabby grey face swam into focus.

“Ugh! What the –” Spike was on his feet in an instant, fangs already out and amber eyes glaring at the trio of ugly grey demons in front of him. “Who the bloody hell are you lot?”

The three demons stared, inexplicably struck speechless.

Spike snarled at them and looked around in confusion.

He appeared to be in a beautifully kept rose garden on one side of an enormous mansion. A warm rose-scented breeze wafted past, and the lights from the mansion stretched their shadows away across the manicured red blooms.

“Oh… my…” One of them said.

Spike saw them slowly dropping their gaze down, their beady black eyes widening as they took in Spike’s crotch.

Spike looked down.

He was naked.

“Oh bloody buggering bollocks!” He rolled his eyes in exasperation and covered himself. “Not again!”

Their eyes snapped back up to Spike’s. “And – er – who might you be?” One of them enquired politely, edging closer.

Spike cocked an eyebrow. “You first. How bout you tell me just where the hell this is and who the bloody hell you all are?”

“I’m Slook… and i-it’s –” One of them stuttered, trying to keep its eyes from dropping down. “And it’s…this is… um…”

The one in the middle sighed and came to Slook’s rescue. “I’m Dreg.”

“And I’m Murk.” The third beamed, and swept its arm towards the huge mansion in a grand gesture. “And this is the home of our Great and Wondrous Glorificus.”

“Who?” Spike’s brain itched at the name, but he couldn’t figure out why.

“You’ll have to forgive Murk’s little fib,” Dreg said haughtily. “It’s not so much a home as it is… a seasonal residence. Our Delicious Queen only stays here where she comes to visit Sunnydale.”

“Glorificasa.” Murk corrected. “We don’t call it Sunnydale anymore.”

“Ah, yes.” Dreg cast Murk a scornful eye. “My apologies.”

“An easy m-mistake to make.” Slook looked nervously between them.

“But –” Dreg addressed Spike with glittering greedy eyes. “Could we be so bold as to ask if your name is – perhaps – Spike?”

“Yeah.” Spike looked at them uncertainly. “I’m Spike… what of it?”

The trio of scabby demons nodded slightly at one another.

Then they began to converge on Spike with more purpose, their horrible hands reaching out as though he were a wild horse that needed soothing.

“There, there,” Murk attempted a smile. “Don’t be frightened. We won’t hurt you.”

Spike started to back away.

“Now, d-don’t insult the Goddess by trying to escape.” Slook tried to catch his arm.

“Come on, there’s a good vampire, let me take you to her Unimaginableness.” Dreg tried to grapple him around the waist.

“You’re scaring him!” Murk shoved the others away with an elbow. “I’ll bring him to her Sensational-ness, I’m good with vampires.”

“But I saw him first! The honour is mine!”

They began to squabble amongst themselves, their ugly faces twisting in annoyance as they pushed at one another.

Spike ran.

“Hey!” Slook called out after him. “Hey! C-come back!”

But Spike didn’t slow until he was sure he’d left the grubby minions well and truly behind.

 


 

 

Angel moaned and tried to rub his head – which was difficult, considering he was handcuffed to the bumper bar of the police truck.

He blinked at the five standing over him.

“Well,” he drawled. “Congratulations. You’ve just given me a greater appreciation for the stupidity of Slayers.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Wes pocketed his flask of Polyjuice potion. “You shouldn’t be too hard on them. I’ve always been able to mimic you quite well.”

Dawn folded the invisibility cloak she’d been under into her backpack. “I can’t believe that actually worked. For a second I thought Nisha was gonna get in the van.”

“It was close!” Fred sighed, sharing her relief.

“Well, under the circumstances, I thought it was genius, Hermione.” Wes stated. “It’s just a pity about Spike.”

They all grew pensive for a moment.

Angel watched them all carefully, listening keenly.

“Well, wherever he went, I doubt we can expect to see him again.” Hermione said. “He disappeared into a portal.”

“The timing was so strange though,” Fred said thoughtfully. “Portals haven’t just appeared quite like that before. Not without a prior event, or someone creating them first.”

“Well, we don’t have time to think about that now.” Wes nodded at them. “We have a van, and we won’t have the Slayers on our tails for a while. But we'll need time to figure out where exactly we should go next. At least the Slayers won’t have an exact idea who they’re looking for, thanks to the potion.”

“It is the longest time that batch of Polyjuice Potion has lasted.” Hermione admitted with relief.

“It worked excellently,” Wes smiled.

Hermione blushed a little at the praise, and hastened to add, “It’s just having to substitute so many of the original ingredients… I always worry about you using it.”

“We had no doubt it’d work,” Fred patted her on the arm. “You did well!”

“Yes, well done.” Angel rolled his eyes. “Now what are you going to do? Sell me on the blackmarket like you do with all the others you kidnap?”

“Shut up!” Hermione jabbed a finger in his face. Orange sparks flared out from her skin, singeing where they landed. Angel watched in fascination. “We don’t kidnap anyone! We rescue them from –”

“No, Hermione,” Wes rested a gentle hand on her arm until she lowered it. “You don’t have to explain anything to him.”

Dawn looked down at Angel with cold eyes. “He should be grateful we’re not killing him.”

“Death and I are old friends,” Angel shot back. “I’m not afraid to die.”

Hermione looked around. “Well, we can’t leave him here.”

Fred and Wes exchanged a glance.

“We’ll need to find somewhere to put him.” Wes said. “I don’t fancy having him along.”

Wes went to the front of the van, pulling out a small bag he’d managed to stash in the glove box. He tossed it to Hermione, who neatly caught it and began to summon some of the things they’d packed: backpacks, extra jackets and phones.

If Angel was fascinated with Hermione’s fingertip sparks before, he was gobsmacked now. “Amazing. How much stuff can you fit in that bag?”

Hermione rolled her eyes as she tried to negotiate the crossbow out without catching it on the bag’s zipper. She handed the crossbow to Wes, who slung it across his back.

“Here.” Hermione handed Fred her phone. Fred switched it on and began swiping away at the screen.

Wes adjusted the straps for the crossbow, while Dawn fiddled with her iPad.

“It says there’s a warehouse about five blocks away. It’s been out of operation for while.” Fred zoomed in on her map. “We could rest there, and then leave at sunset.”

“It’ll have to do.” Wes looked up at the sky. “We don’t have long til sunrise. But we’ll need you to hide the van, Hermione.”

Hermione stood in front of the van.

“I’ll take care of this.” She began a complicated series of gestures, until it shrank to the size of a match box. When she was finished, she sagged, perspiration on her brow. “Gets harder every time.” She muttered. Upending an old crate, she placed it over the toy-sized truck. “It should hold.”

“Wait.” Dawn nodded at Angel. “Have we decided what we’re doing about him?”

“He’ll have to come with us for now,” Wes said. “But at sunset, we’ll leave him behind.”

“Better get rid of his commwatch.” Fred shrugged her backpack on. “Smash it, just in case.”

“Good idea.”

“And check your pockets, Wes.” Hermione added. “Just in case we missed something. Anything he’s got would be helpful.”

“One of those Slayers mentioned a taser.” Wes began to feel the insides of Angel’s jacket that he wore. “I didn’t feel one before, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

“I don’t.” Angel snapped.

Wes ignored him, and kept searching.

Angel rolled his eyes again. “I never took one with me. I don’t like them. Too much can go wrong.”

Wes stood up. “Nothing.” He said to the others.

“Alright, we’ve wasted enough time out here.” Dawn glanced around worriedly. “Let’s get going.” 

 

Chapter Text

While naked sprinting was never easy, Spike had no choice.

Clutching at his bouncing manhood, he did his best to put as much distance as he could between him and his would-be kidnappers. Fortunately, they were as clumsy and slow as they were ugly, and Spike was able to outstrip them within minutes, leaving them and the place he'd woken up in far behind as he ran through town.

Eventually he'd decided to hide in the tight space between two stores just off of a small shopping mall strip, just to make sure he'd well and truly lost them. He waited a long time, until he was satisfied he could sense no one nearby. Squeezing out, he decided it was high time to make himself less conspicuous, or at any rate less naked. It was the work of a minute to break into the back of a department store and disable the alarms. Then he'd been free to browse for a good pair of black jeans, a nice black t-shirt, and a sturdy pair of boots; though unfortunately there'd been nothing in the style of his beloved leather duster.

Now, feeling a little more like himself, he took a moment to think about what to do next.

The sky was starting to get lighter, signalling the approaching sunrise; and it didn't take him long to decide that it was high time he set out to find a certain blonde Slayer.

Enough was enough: Spike had scoffed before at the idea of going to her for help after being chipped, but this was different.

He knew when he was in over his head this time; and what had happened to him over the last twenty four hours had completely convinced him whatever was going on was a lot bigger than anything he could handle.

Plus, he had a bone to pick with her. Or two.

Starting with why on earth she never told him she had a pretty little sister. He grinned again, eyes glowing as he imagined how annoyed Buffy was gonna be when he teased her about her little sister.

He only had to figure out where Buffy's house was.

As he snuck out of the Department store he kept mostly to the shadows, and spread his senses wide; but after ten minutes of fruitless walking he had to admit to himself that he didn't recognise anything. The street names were all different. The buildings weren't anything like what he remembered. Cursing under his breath, he came to an eventual standstill at the same corner he was sure he'd passed fifteen minutes before.

He was hopelessly lost.

That was when he heard it.

A distant cry. And then a dull, muffled roar. Spike's skin prickled as a faint wave of power washed over him. His senses told him it was coming from his left, on the other side of a row of shops.

The Slayer?

He hesitated.

He'd really been set on going to Buffy's house. But he had an idea that whatever was happening nearby might be big… and if it was big, Buffy was sure to be there, right in the thick of it. He could at least just take a peek and make sure.

He changed direction.

It was unusual, the way the invisible waves kept periodically rippling across his skin like an oil slick as he climbed up the nearest shop wall. As he came closer, he heard more cries, and strange sounds. He wondered what on earth was causing so much commotion. There was a smell, too, that reminded him a little of an Utlendingur demon he'd run into once – and he hoped to hell it wasn't one of those pricks. They were just the worst.

He hauled himself up onto the roof, and carefully crept towards the source of the snorts, growls and roars echoing in the empty town square below. And then slowly straightened in awe when he realised what it was.

It was a cave troll.

His mouth just about dropped open. Though he recognised it for a troll, it wasn't like any he'd ever seen before. It was huge. It looked like a giant grey shell-less turtle, raring up on thick hindlegs with a cry like a psychotic steam-engine's whistle. It was flailing its fat arms and swiping at something on its back. No, not something. Someone. Someone was on the thing's back, being tossed about as they clung stubbornly, stabbing it again and again in the neck, before finally leaping off. The beast reared up and back, scrabbling uselessly at the dagger jabbed in the base of its skull.

And the someone was a young woman.

He saw her, crouching and watching, and he could just make out that her lips were moving as in a rapid chant. The dagger seemed to be slicing and sawing its way upwards of its own accord, seemingly in response to the woman's chanting – until, finally, the dagger cleaved straight through the centre of its skull, splitting its head in a spray of foul black blood. It sank to its knees before collapsing forward with an ugly gurgle.

He stared at her.

He wouldn't believe it. Couldn't.

Another Slayer?

And she'd used magic.

He'd never seen a Slayer bother with magic before. He leaned forward and breathed in, trying to scent her. He could smell the dead troll – dried mud and fetid water – but he forced himself to push through until he got her scent.

Definitely Slayer.

He shook his head in disbelief.

"Just how many bloody Slayers are there?" He wondered out loud.

"Four hundred and eighty-eight." Said a voice by his shoulder.

Spike hissed and spun, fangs out in an instant and ready to fight.

Dark eyes glinted back. "But that's just in America."

"Who the bloody hell are –"

"Refreno."

Spike couldn't move. He tried to, but his arms and legs were apparently stuck fast together.

"Spike, isn't it?"

"Sod off."

"I'm Barty." His gaze was unnerving. "I thought I recognised you."

"Lucky you."

"Hard not to, with the telly running 24 hour 'Have you seen this vampire' ads." He looked past him to the town square below. "Incredible, isn't she?" He walked to the edge of the parapet. "She came here a few months ago. Hides from the other slayers, doesn't want anything to do with them." He turned back to Spike. "She's the only one – well, besides myself – who actually does what a Slayer's supposed to do. I actually used to admire them, you know. Well, the idea of them. Slayers. Going about, saving all those innocent muggles from things they'll never see, never understand, never appreciate..." He leaned in as though sharing a personal revelation, his tongue flicking to his lip. "Not that I blame them. The muggles. It's not their fault."

"Listen, you stupid wanker." Spike growled, a low sound that vibrated through his chest, "I haven't the slightest clue what you're going on about. And frankly, I don't care. But I'd really appreciate it if you magic fuckers would STOP PUTTING SPELLS ON ME!"The growl intensified into a full-fledged roar. Barty's hair shifted in the force of Spike's breath, and his jaw dropped slightly.

"It's always… such a pleasure… seeing the raw strength."

His tongue dipped in and out again, like Barty couldn't control it.

"There's something almost… cathartic about it." He practically drank in the vampire's frustrated grunts as Spike tried to fight free from his invisible restraints. "The revealing of the true monster, hidden beneath the man's face. I'll never grow tired of it. The raw truth of it is… exquisite."

"Can give you the full 3D experience if you want." Spike panted and struggled. "Come on, you tosser! Why don't you let me go and fight me properly?"

"Unfortunately, I have no time." Barty raised his hands, his fingers twisting in the air, and Spike felt himself lift up off the ground. "This has been gratifying, Spike, but it's time for you to go. Nothing personal… well actually, it's a little personal…"

"Un Vampire… et un Sorcier?"

The Slayer was standing there on the roof with them.

Barty's lips twitched as he turned.

"Oh thank God!" Spike couldn't help uttering. "Can't believe I'm doing this, but could you please, please, help me. I'd much rather face a Slayer than loony tunes over here."

"This is… unusual." The Slayer stated. Her French accent was slight, but still unmistakable. "A vampire, asking for my help."

Her lips quirked a little, as though at a private joke.

Spike tried to turn his head to look at her. "I'll do anything. Anything. I'll even get down on my knees if you want and –"

With an annoyed flick, Barty dropped him. Spike fell painfully, his legs jarring on the concrete roof.

Barty was the picture of calm as he faced the French Slayer fully. "Elara."

"I thought we all agreed on the plan," she said casually. "But you waste your time with this vampire? It does not look like the plan."

"And you fighting a troll is the plan?"

"I'm waiting." She shrugged. "They'll call me when I'm needed."

"Then go wait elsewhere. This has nothing to do with you."

"He has asked for help."

Barty gave a frustrated growl. "Shouldn't you be with Angel?"

"Why?" Elara winked. "When you are so much more fun."

"I could kill you," he scratched his chin as he looked at her. "If I wanted to."

"Killing me is not so easy."

His tongue flicked out the side of his mouth. "Or I could put you under my power. Make you do what I say."

"Ah." She sounded almost apologetic. "Also not easy."

Spike found he could move a little again. He began to wriggle himself towards the edge.

"You know, the one thing I keep noticing about you," Barty smiled nastily, "is that you frequently believe your own bullshit."

Her grey eyes lit up with amusement. "Then will you fight?"

Barty paused. "Tell me one thing…"

Her lips gave another funny little quirk, and she nodded.

"How is Angel in bed?"

Elara's face at once became a thundercloud. "You son of a bitch –"

Barty flung up his hands. "Petrificus totalus!"

Chapter Text

 

Barty’s first spell missed.

Elara had disappeared.

He blinked and looked around the empty rooftop. She’d gone.

And so had Spike.

“Still as fast as ever,” he muttered.

A distant scuffle drifted up from below.

The sounds of someone snarling, “Here, let go, Slayer!”

He strode quickly to the edge of the roof, and saw Elara below, hastily trying to drag Spike around the edge of a shop building by the scruff of his neck.

Barty knew he couldn’t stupefy either of them from this height; he couldn’t be precise enough without a wand. He needed to slow them down, block their way.

Concentrating, he flicked both his hands out and shouted, “Bombarda Maxima!”

The Ladies Boutique Elara and Spike had been skirting around exploded. The sound was deafening. Bricks and mortar and dust and scraps of clothing rained down. They both coughed and stumbled out of the rubble.

He flicked both his hands out again in a different gesture, and re-appeared to land lightly in front of them.

Elara rubbed the dust from her eyes and faced Barty. “I will not let you –”

But Barty had no more time for talking.

“Confringo!”

Elara swore in French, and quickly shoved Spike to the ground – just in time to avoid the powerful blast that roared over them and smacked into the corner of a shop behind them.

Spike felt the searing heat pass over him, and smelt the acrid bitterness of singed hair.

“Bloody hell!”

He tried to slide out from under Elara, but she shoved a hand firmly on his back.

“You stay down.” She told him.

She stood, coughing and looking all around for their attacker in the thick dusty air, but he was nowhere to be seen. He’d cloaked himself from her eyes.

“Elara.” Barty’s voice emerged through the settling dust cloud. “Step aside. Let me end the vampire, and I might think about sparing you.”

“Non,” She said, her English slipping, “This vampire is…” She coughed again, “Under my protection.”

“If that is what you wish… but it would be a waste.”

Elara turned in the direction his voice had come from, placing herself firmly in front of where Spike still lay hugging the ground.

“That depends.” She called back, her eyes darting, waiting for him to show himself.

“Dying for a vampire.” His voice came from another direction now. “I don’t think your Angel would be pleased.”

“Meh.” Elara shrugged, refusing this time to be goaded; instead she listened keenly to the sound of broken bricks being softly trodden on in front of her.

“Aren’t you afraid of dying?”

Though Elara couldn’t see him, she could definitely hear him now, trying to skirt around her.

“Vous n’avez pas peur de la mort, vous l’acceptez.”

“How very poetic –”

Elara leapt towards her right, and sure enough, she hit her target.

Barty’s invisibility charm broke the moment she tried to wrap her arms about him in a headlock, but he was prepared.

“Defodio!”

The spell knocked Elara to land on her back amidst the rubble-strewn ground, blood seeping through a gash on her chest.

Barty stood over her.

She gasped, blood staining her mouth. “You – are making – a mistake.”

“Put pressure on it, you'll survive.” Barty advised, before turning away to look for Spike.

"Ah. There you are." Barty started towards him, hand raised.

Spike started to panic.

He had to get out of here.

He leapt to his feet, looking all around for a way out, but there was none.

The remains of a brick wall was at his back and the mad-looking magic-wielding bastard was stalking towards him in front.

He started to break out in a strange sweat.

“Barty.”

Incredibly, the Slayer was trying to stand, blood-soaked as she was.

“Don’t.”

But Barty had backed the vampire right up against the wall.

Spike tried to talk, tried to think of something to say, to stall, but he couldn’t.

Something felt wrong.

Spike felt... weird.

"Arrêtez…" The Slayer was stumbling towards them, holding her torn clothing over her blood-soaked chest. "He is an innocent."

"You don't know what his existence costs!" Barty snapped.

"Je dois vous demander d'épargner sa vie, qu'importe combien cela coûtera," she pleaded.

Spike had to get out of here.

“Pourquoi devrais-je l’épargner?” Barty said over his shoulder. He turned cold eyes back towards Spike.

“If you knew,” Barty said softly. “The things that wait for me in my own world… you’d do anything… to make sure there’s not even the slightest chance a portal could be opened again… to make sure you’d never go back.”

Spike knew this was it.

This bastard was gonna kill him.

White sparks started to shoot into the air around Spike.

The same squeezing from before started to happen again, invisible hands kneading him over and over, bending him out of shape.

Spike tried to scream but his throat was ice cold, his vision was going dark, and he was being compressed into himself, until he was no bigger than the size of his fist, the size of his heart...

Arrêtez!” Elara cried. “What are you doing, Barty –?”

 


 

Spike was at the base of the tower again, a knot of loony looking people standing between him and the metal stairs. He watched in absolute confusion as Buffy swung an oversized hammer at a blonde woman. He saw that, just like last time, Dawn was at the very top of the tower, tied at the edge of the gangplank.

“What is this?” He snarled, morphing into his demon’s face. “What’s going on?”

The same familiar-sounding voice popped into his head. Get up there. Go now.

“Not until you tell me what the fuck is going on!” He roared at the voice.

Buffy threw him a confused scowl as she ducked Glory’s fist.

“Spike!” She screamed. “Don’t just stand there! Save Dawn!”

GO! The voice in his head told him.

And the other consciousness rose up inside him, propelling him forward as the crowd parted again even though he didn’t want to go, to do same pointless run up the stairs again. Spike already had a suspicion that it was useless, but the other driver of his body didn’t want to listen.

He made it to the gangplank in time to see the man slicing the knife across Dawn’s stomach.

It had happened again.

He was too late.

Dawn’s blood trickled down through the metal grating to drip and spark in mid-air, erupting into an enormous electric bluish-white portal.

The man turned.

Time slowed to a crawl.

And then, Spike knew.

“I’m in Groundhog Day.” He groaned. “I’m in my own personal Groundhog Day!”

This was hell. This was worse than hell. Sentenced to this moment over and over again until he could figure out what was going on.

“Well…” The man with the knife seemed momentarily taken aback.

“I’m fucking Bill Murray!” Spike cursed.

The man seemed to recover himself, and smiled smugly, as though humouring a child. “Alright, Bill Murray, you can call me Doc… and welcome to hell.”

Doc’s eyes filled and turned black, as he raised the knife and came towards Spike.

Spike had had enough.

Whatever was happening – whoever was doing this to him – they had to pay. All his frustration, fear and rage funnelled into a single point, and the smug face of the man Spike now realised was a demon – the one who’d called himself ‘Doc’ – was at the end of it. With a cry of fury, Spike leapt at the demon and began to pummel him.

“Stop – messin’ – with my – life!” He shouted.

Doc shot his tongue out, and it twisted obscenely in the air like a toad’s, whipping Spike in the eye.

“Ugh!” Spike cried in disgust and lost his grip.

Twisting the knife around in his hand, Doc jerked it backwards and up into Spike’s side, ramming it in to the hilt. Spike fell to his knees, the blade’s handle slippery with his blood.

“Spike!” Dawn cried.

Spike lifted his eyes up to hers, and he could feel the other consciousness, the other Spike, despair.

Doc smiled cruelly, before kicking Spike over the edge.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

FIVE YEARS EARLIER...

Sergeant George Putnam met him at reception, crisply typed report already in hand and moustache bristling. “Dr Paul Weston?”

Paul stood to shake the man’s hand. “Yes?”

“Sergeant George Putnam. Thanks for coming.” He angled Paul towards their interview rooms, down a hall off of the police station’s main reception. “It’s been one of those nights, I can tell you.”

“You said on the phone you needed a diagnosis?”

Sergeant Putnam strode along at a fast pace, trousers swishing. “Doc –”

“Please, call me Paul.”

“Paul.” The moustache twitched. “What I need is for you to officially declare him a loon, so we can have him admitted.”

Paul rubbed his face to hide his wince. “Sergeant, I have to warn you, I don’t usually diagnose patients, I just treat them…”

The Sergeant stopped.

"Well, excuse me, Paul,” he leaned in. “But I’m all out of fucks to give.”

Paul could smell the stale coffee on the Sergeant's breath.

"It’s four o’clock in the morning," Sergeant Putnam growled, "We’re getting complaints every two minutes about everything you can imagine, the cells are full of crazies, and no one else answered my calls. You did. And now you’re here. In fact, you’re the only shrink who actually turned up.”

“Alright, then.” Paul kept his cool. “Tell me about him.”

Sergeant Putnam turned and resumed swishing down the hall. “Got a call last night that someone’s vamp had gone nuts and started attacking people in the street. Of course, no one’s going to claim ownership, not now the vamp’s dust anyway. But apparently this guy came out of nowhere, and twisted the damned thing’s head clean off. Saved people’s lives. A couple even reckon he did it without touching the thing, like the guy was magic or something, but I think that’s just the adrenaline talking. Near-death experiences can have that effect."

“Excuse me Sargent... you arrested him, but you said he saved people’s lives?”

The Sergeant caught Paul’s look of surprised confusion, and grimaced.

"We can’t have random citizens killing slaves that don’t belong to them, even if that slave is trying to kill people. Had no choice but to drag him in last night, kicking and screaming, looking fit to murder us. Had to put him in a cell by himself. And now I’ve got a sobbing family banging on my eardrums, calling him a hero because he saved their kid’s life, and then I’ve got the union calling me, trying to make this political, saying that their people are being discriminated against for owning vamp slaves, and the vamp had to have belonged to someone, and this guy needs to be made an example of, blah, blah, blah. Slaves been expensive and all.” The Sergeant sighed. “To top it all off, the guy’s got a definite screw loose.” He looked sideways at Paul. “Though that could work in his favour. If you can make it your professional opinion that the guy needs treatment, then he gets taken to the nuthouse and that’s that.”

Paul absorbed this. “So what was he screaming?”

The Sergeant glanced at him, slightly confused. “What?”

“When you took him in, you said he was screaming. What was he screaming?”

“Ah...” He thought. “Sounded like… ah vah dah … no – abracadabra. Yeah, that’s what it was. Abracadabra. The whole station could hear him.”

Paul regarded the officer for a long moment. “Abracadabra.”

Sergeant Putnam snorted. “We’ve had him in a cell for the last four hours, and frankly, it’s getting a bit much.” He cleared his throat as he ushered Paul into an interview room. “Look, just take a look, give your best guess, and sign the papers so we can get him out of here.”

Paul looked around at the sparse room.

“Fine,” he said. “I can do that. But I want to see him alone.”

George’s moustache twitched. “Alone?”

Paul saw the look, and spread his hands out. “You want a diagnosis, I need to be able to concentrate. I can’t keep dividing my attention between this guy and everyone else in the room.”

“Okay.” George nodded. “But five minutes only. We’ll cuff the guy, and my men will station themselves outside the door. But you see one thing out of the ordinary, you don’t hesitate. You go get them, understand?”

“What do you mean, ‘out of the ordinary’?”

The Sergeant was strangely reluctant to answer, fidgeting with the report in his hand. “King said he started a fire in his cell.”

“Oh?” Paul raised his eyebrows. “How did he manage to do that?”

“Well, that’s just it. None of them could figure out how he did it, but it set the damn alarms off like nobody’s business. And the guy wouldn’t admit how he did it either, just got in a rage about his wand. How he’d lost it or something, was useless without it.” The Sergeant made a face. “Some of the men thought it was hilarious. His wand.” He shook his head. “I had to send them home, they laughed themselves sick.”

“Exhaustion does that.” Paul shook his head in agreement. “It’s been a strange couple of months.”

“No, really. They actually laughed themselves sick. They were making jokes about the dude ‘playing’ with his wand, and then –” the moustache twitched in distaste. “Vomit. All over the floor.”

Paul stilled, his mind working fast; and then a slow look of realisation filtered through his expression.

The Sergeant, unaware of Paul’s inner revelation, placed the report on the desk.

“Here. Have a read. Just make sure you return it to reception before you go, okay? It’s been a madhouse tonight, I don’t think they had time to make a copy.”

“Thank you, George.”

The moustache jumped a little at Paul using his first name. “Yeah. Well. He’ll be here soon, and you can see if you still feel thankful then.” The Sergeant left.

Paul picked up the report and studied the list of charges: trespassing, breaking and entering, petty theft, destruction of property. Paul sighed, glancing again at the name at the top.

“Barty Crouch Junior.” He muttered to himself. He settled down to read the report while he waited.

 


 

Less than ten minutes later, Paul first met Barty Crouch Jr.

Dressed haphazardly in a shirt that was too big and ridiculously baggy jeans, he saw a skinny man-boy, with a scruffy mop of caramel-brown hair, intense black eyes and a thin face.

Sergeant Putnam had warned him Barty was ‘crazy’. But what Paul saw in his eyes wasn’t craziness. It was an unnerving intelligence. The kind of intelligence of someone who’d seen far too much, far too young. Black eyes drilled into his with a fierce perception that made Paul uncomfortable.

The man never took his eyes off Paul as the police officers shoved him down in the chair opposite, cuffing his hands firmly to the metal bar soldered to the table between them. Paul waited for the click of the door shutting, leaving them alone.

Paul moved the file in front of him a little.

The black eyes shifted down, to the name on the edge of the file: Barty Crouch Jr. He sneered, flicking his gaze back up to Paul as he did.

“Let me introduce myself –” Paul began.

Barty leaned forward, and with breathtaking vehemence hissed, “Doctor Paul Weston, psychotherapist, fifty-four years old, divorced, unhappy, unfulfilled, unloved…” The shrewd black eyes roved hungrily over Paul’s face for the merest hint of pain or fear.

“Before we do anything else,” Paul maintained an even tone, “I’d like to set some ground rules for ourselves, and some goals.”

Paul waited, but Barty had frozen.

“The police are willing to let you leave,” Paul continued, “But only if you agree to be admitted into my care.”

The man spoke suddenly. “How’d they get my name.”

Paul stopped, surprised. “What do you mean?”

“My name.” He nodded at the file in front of Paul. “I never told them my name.”

Paul tilted his head. “The report said you talked a lot in your cell. To yourself.”

The eyes turned even darker. “Did I now.”

“Does it upset you?” Paul asked. “That they know your name?”

Barty’s lips stretched across his teeth. “I hate that name.”

“Would you prefer another name?”

“What difference does it make?” The manic sneer became a short ugly laugh. “I’ve never had a name that wasn’t someone else’s.”

Paul pushed the file to the side and sat back. “Do you know why you’re here?”

Barty leaned back, mimicking him, his handcuffs clinking against the metal bar as he did.

“You muggles don’t know what to do with me.” He looked away. “And I… don’t have my wand.” The black eyes turned back to Paul, as though daring him to say something about it.

“Will you accept my help?”

Barty looked disgusted. “Why on earth would I want your help?”

“Do you really think you’re the only one with magic powers? Do you think you’re the first person I’ve ever met who can cast spells? Look around you. This is, literally, a hell hole of the supernatural.” Paul crossed his legs. “But whatever gifts you have won’t matter, of course, because unless you agree to be treated by me, you’ll be charged, and forced to serve a sentence in prison.”

“No muggle prison can hold me.”

“This one held you.”

Barty scowled.

Paul continued. “You strike me as the kind of person who’d draw attention in prison. You’re the kind of person who’d get into trouble. You’d hurt someone. Maybe kill them. Then the guards would punish you. Put you in solitary all by yourself, long days and nights without seeing a single person. Alone, unheard, invisible.”

Paul noted the way Barty’s jaw tensed.

“Solitary’s the worst.” He added. “And then it might be years before you’re released. All that time, without your wand. But, if that’s what you want to do, I can’t stop you...”

Barty’s fingers curled into his palm, his gaze malevolent. “What do you want?”

“What?” Paul steepled his fingers together. “Can’t you read my mind and tell me?”

Barty looked away. “No.”

“No?”

Barty turned back, the rage palpable. “No!”

“Why not?”

“It – it’s – I can’t.”

Paul nodded. “Magic is tiring. You can’t rely on it as much as you think you can.”

Barty stared. “What do you want?” He repeated, but softly this time.

“You have to agree to my terms. You do not try to hurt me. You do not use your magic to hurt anyone else, unless it is in self-defence. You come with me, and I’ll find you a safe place to stay. And you meet with me once a week, to talk.”

“That’s all?”

“That’s all. You’ll be cared for in a – facility that I run here in Sunnydale. It’s… an exclusive facility. For people like yourself. I think you’ll find it suitable for your needs.”

Paul measured him in silence.

Barty nodded, very slightly.

Then Paul stood and left the interview room, aware that Barty’s eyes followed him.

Outside, the policemen leapt to attention.

“Officers,” Paul greeted him. “He needs treatment.” He saw them glance through the glass panelled door. “He’s not exactly… dangerous, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

They shared sceptical glances.

“Look,” Paul sighed, “If you wouldn’t mind just getting me the paperwork, I can take him and get out of here.”

One of them shrugged and went to get the forms, but the other stayed, looking at Barty. “Hafta say Doc, that one’s different. From the other crazies, I mean. But, if you think you can help him…” He cast a glance up the hall to reception, where two officers were dragging in another arrest. “We just don’t know where all these nutjobs are coming from! It’s like something been out there for months, just making them lose their minds. Well,” he amended. “More than usual.”

“I can handle him. Just let me have the paperwork, and I’ll take him off your hands.”

 

Chapter Text

PREVIOUSLY:

Spike tried to scream but his throat was ice cold, his vision was going dark, and he was being compressed into himself, until he was no bigger than the size of his fist, the size of his heart...

“Arrêtez!” Elara cried. “What are you doing, Barty?”

 


 

Elara threw her dagger at Barty.

He managed to throw his hands up in a weak shield, but it was too late.

The dagger slid through his hand to the hilt.

“Arrrrrrrghh!” Barty cried in pain.

Elara stalked towards him, no longer caring that her ripped shirt exposed her blood-stained bra, the gash on her chest already healing to a pink scar.

“Return the vampire.” Her eyes were icy. “Or you will know even more pain.”

Barty took a deep breath and pulled slowly on the dagger, easing it out from between his bones. It slid out with a sickening wet sound.

He brandished the dagger towards her, holding his injured hand tightly against his chest.

Elara didn’t stop, even as Barty stumbled backwards, knowing his magic was depleting.

“What have you done to him?”

Barty shook his head. “I didn’t do anything to him!”

“Then where did he go?”

“I was about to ask you the same question!”

“You are not lying?”

“No.” He gritted his teeth, and raised the dagger in warning. “You said you'd stop interfering!"

“He asked for help.”

“A Slayer, helping a vampire?” Barty laughed, a rasping laugh cut short as a wave of pain hit his brain.

“You know I’m not a Slayer.” Elara stopped and scowled. “And you should know me better.”

“What were you doing,” he hissed, “Kidnapping him for Angel?”

“What were you doing? I thought you all agreed: no killing!”

“I had my reasons.” Barty gritted his teeth.

She looked at him shrewdly and took another step towards him. “And I have mine.”

Barty felt the blood from his hand beginning to soak through his shirt.

“Spike was mine to kill.” He said angrily. “He is too dangerous to be allowed to live.”

“Spike?” Her eyes widened. “That vampire… was Spike?”

“Yes,” he said, “And you let him get away!”

She paused. “Why would you kill him?”

“None of your business.”

“There is a reward.” She tilted her head as though trying to see him better. “The Hell goddess promises a reward to any who bring him to her. Perhaps you thought to take Spike to her? Kill him in front of her?”

“Fuck that bitch!” Barty felt his head swimming, and nearly lost his balance.

“Then why…?”

In his fury, Barty told her the truth.

All of it.

Even the parts he knew she hadn't been told. The parts that had been kept from her and Angel. Even a little of the truth about himself...

She was silent for a while when he finished.

“So you lied about who you were before you came here.” Elara seemed strangely amused again. “To her. To all of us.”

“Not to Paul.”

She made a rude sound. “Makes no difference.”

Barty glowered at her, annoyed he had no magic left with which to stun this impertinent little wretch. He couldn't decide what annoyed him more - his temporary inability or her... everything.

Eventually, she sighed. “You are hurt.”

“No, really?” He rolled his eyes. “And what are you going –”

Somehow, she was already in front of him, resting a small hand on his injured one.

Her lack of fear was almost amazing.

So was her stupidity.

He moved like lightning, wrapping his arm about her and pressing her to his chest, ignoring the shooting pain of his wounded hand. He tucked the bloodied blade up under her chin, and looked down into her upturned face.

She merely looked back at him with an expression of complete incredulity.

“Imbécile!” She said softly.

Then she touched his bloodied hand.

With a sharp intake of breath he realised she was healing him.

The flesh was literally melting itself back together before his eyes.

He stared at her in disbelief.

“What?” She scoffed. “You think a warrior only knows how to cut and kill? I’d be a poor one if I couldn’t also make myself well again.”

“Aren’t you tired?” He asked. “Doesn’t using magic tire you?”

She shook her head.

“It used to. On my old world.” She gave him a wry smile. “But on this one, I feel… stronger.”

Barty nearly dropped the blade. “What do you mean – your old world?”

Elara winked. “Do you think you are the only one who knows how to lie?”

Barty stared in utter shock. “You – you’re –?”

He was interrupted by the distant scream of someone falling and hitting the ground.

 


 

Spike groaned.

“He lives.” A sarcastic voice intoned

“Bien,” Replied a second. “It was good not to leave him for the sun.”

“There’s still time.”

A huff, and then: “You promised. Questions first.”

Spike opened his eyes.

When he saw who his companions were, he groaned again.

“Not you two.”

He sat up, rubbing his aching head.

Barty shifted closer, his arms tightly folded as he stared down at Spike.

Beside him, Elara was kneeling to look into his face.

“How do you feel, Spike?” she asked.

Barty snorted.

Spike fanged out. “Like I could do with a nice, stiff dose of Slayer blood.”

Elara cocked her head on the side. “When was the last time you ate?”

Spike ignored her as his vision cleared.

His feet were bare.

And his legs.

And… all of him.

Once more, he was naked. Again.

“Bloody buggering fuck, fuck, fuck!” He leapt to his feet. “What the fucking hell is happening to me!”

Elara was also on her feet, though far more gracefully, standing between Spike and Barty, who already had a hand raised involuntarily in defense.

“Reculez.” She warned Spike, dagger gripped tightly in one fist.

Spike snarled at her.

“One more step,” Barty warned Spike with an eager gleam in his eye, “And I’ll end you.”

“You just try it, mate.” Spike’s eyes were feral. “Just try another spell, and I’ll fucking tear your hands off and make you eat them!”

“Tu n’es pas assez forte pour t’opposer Spike.” Elara said softly to Barty.

“We had a deal.” Barty retorted.

“Then trust me," she said. “Glory will never use him. We won’t let that happen. But we have to talk to him first. What he knows is more important.”

Barty gradually relaxed, the wisdom of her words settling him.

“You fucking bitch,” Spike growled. “Don’t think for a second I’m gonna let you kill me.”

Elara laughed. "I often hear this.” She turned to Barty. “Is it the same for you?”

Barty only sent her a withering glance.

“We need answers.” He said to Spike.

Spike looked at them both, considering all the possible responses. Then he decided to go with the one that most clearly expressed his most overriding emotion.

"You, and you, and the horses you rode in on… fuck off.”

Elara smiled wryly.

And then she kicked out at Spike’s feet, knocking him hard onto his back and straddling him in one fluid movement, the wooden handle of her dagger pressing above his heart.

“Ow.” He looked up into her grey eyes. “That hurt.”

“J’ai des questions.” She settled her weight on him firmly. “Tell us what we need and I’ll spare you.”

“I won’t.” Barty said darkly.

Elara cast him a sharp glance.

“Maybe.” Barty amended reluctantly.

Spike looked from her to the sharp wood and back to her again.

“Alright.” He feigned relaxing under her. “But, if you wouldn’t mind pet, taking that away. So we can talk proper like.”

She hesitated, before slowly leaning over him to rest her fist, still clutching the dagger tightly in her hand, on the ground next to his face.

“Better?” She asked.

“Oh yeah, pet. Much better.”

He pulled hard on the inside of her elbow, unbalancing her as she collapsed awkwardly on top of him; then he trapped her foot with his leg and flipped her so that he was on top.

But Barty was there, wrenching Spike’s head back by his hair just he made to rip into her with his fangs; and at the same moment she pressed the blade of the dagger up under his jaw from underneath.

“Clever.” Barty hissed in his ear. “But not clever enough.”

“We want to know where you went when you disappeared.” Elara said, barely missing a beat.

Spike had no choice.

But as he opened his mouth to start to tell them, he heard a sudden clang, followed by several unwelcome voices.

 

Chapter Text

In the early morning light, they could see that the town square was completely deserted.

Rona, Holly and Nisha searched, but there had been nothing.

Sure, there’d been damage to the buildings.

Evidence of a break in at the department store on the corner.

But whoever or whatever was here had obviously cleaned up after themselves, and were long gone.

There was no trace of the giant troll that they’d been expecting. Not even the dead body of one.

Holly sighed and tapped her commwatch. “Command Centre, this is 379, over.”

“379, status report please.”

“There’s nothing here.” She looked again at the deserted square. “Evidence of destruction of property, and a break-in at corner of Main and Kelly, but no 126.”

The voice paused for a moment before responding. “Copy that. Report to Command Centre for duty.”

“Uh negative, Command. We’ve been out all night –”

“Operation Moonlight is go.”

Holly froze.

“Did you copy? Operation Moonlight is go.”

“Affirmative.”

The call cut out.

Holly stared at the other Slayers.

“It’s happening.” Rona was strangely dispassionate. “Isn’t it?”

Nisha looked like it was the best news she’d had. “This is it. We’re finally gonna do it!”

“Yeah.” Holly turned and looked up at the blue sky. “We are.”

 


 

“The door was unlocked,” came Hermione’s voice. “You don’t think someone’s in here?”

“Let’s just get everyone inside. If there’s anyone here, we’ll sort it out.” Wes said.

“Great. It smells like rats in here.” Angel complained.

“Get in!”

 


 

 

As Spike had heard the voices, he’d already realised with a small groan that he knew exactly who they were. The witch, the Slayer’s sister, the ponce with the glasses and his girl – and Angel.

Spike was not normally a believer in coincidences.

Living on a Hellmouth for any length of time taught you to never believe in coincidences. Not that he believed in fate either, mind you. He preferred to think that he moulded his own fate, but the events of the last few days were beginning to convince him otherwise.

Barty dragged him to his feet as Elara pressed the wooden handle to Spike’s heart once again in warning.

“There.” Barty whispered, nodding to an old stack of pallets near the wall.

Together, Barty and Elara manhandled Spike into the tight space between the pallets and the corrugated iron wall.

“Ouch!” Spike hissed, as he scraped against the rough wood of the pallets.

“Hurry up!” Barty muttered.

“We should cover him.” Elara whispered to Barty. “Give him your coat!”

Barty raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah, no thanks, Slayer,” Spike grumbled. “Think I’d rather stay naked.”

“Please.” Elara looked back in earnest at Barty, completely ignoring Spike.

Barty sighed, and then, with some difficulty in the tight space, shrugged off his coat and shoved it at Spike. “Here. Put it on.”

 


 

“Did you hear that?” Hermione asked. “I thought I heard something from over there.”

“Probably rats.” Angel sniffed.

“Shut up, Angel.” Wes snapped.

“It’s alright, I’ll go check.” Hermione said.

“Sit there.” Wes pressed a hard hand on Angel’s shoulder. “On the floor, where we can see you.”

“What, here, near the mouldy crates? Or would you rather I sat over there, near the dead rat?”

“I know which one suits you better.” Dawn muttered as she stomped away with her phone.

“Don’t go too far,” Fred told Dawn.

Wes found an old wooden table, and dragged it to where Angel was. There were also some old chairs stacked nearby, dusty and covered in cobwebs, but otherwise in good condition. He set them out around the table, while Fred cleaned off the grime as best she could. She set out food and bottles of water for everyone.

“I’m thirsty,” Angel complained, eying the bottles of water.

“Give it a break.” Wes rubbed his eyes.

“I’m thirsty.”

“You aren’t getting anything, until you start talking.”

“I am talking.”

“I meant telling us what you know.”

“How about getting me a drink, and then maybe I’ll feel like it.”

“Tell me what you know, and then maybe we can see about it.”

“Fine. Mars has the longest valley in the solar system. Coconut water can be used as a substitute for blood plasma. The national animal of Scotland is the Unicorn. Now can I have a drink?”

Wes sighed and raised his eyes heavenward.

 


 

Spike wanted to explode in frustration.

Not only was he trapped in a warehouse wedged between a Slayer and a Sorcerer, wearing only a coat, but his poof of a grandsire was here, and with the same wankers who’d chained him up as their prisoner. It wasn’t just unbelievable. It was ridiculous.

And with the sun up, there was no easy way out. The best he could hope for was to somehow miraculously knock them all unconscious, and make a run for it – but the chances of that actually happening were laughably miniscule.

The witch came closer, methodically peering under and behind everything she saw.

Spike figured if he could stop her from speaking, he might be able to knock her out before she could put her magic spells on him again.

Barty tensed, looking across Spike towards Elara, and his jaw ticked.

Seeing Barty's expression, Spike turned his head to look at the Slayer as well – and realised she’d gone.

“Fuck.” Barty cursed quietly.

“Who’s there?” Hermione said loudly. “Show yourselves.”

Suddenly, several cries of alarm made the witch stop in her tracks.

“What the –”

“Watch out!”

Stop her!

Hermione ran.

Another unintelligible shout, followed by crashes and further cries, and Spike knew he’d definitely missed any chance he might’ve had to try and escape unseen.

He was going to have to fight.

He leapt out from behind the pallets, barely half a second behind Barty, and saw several things at once: Wes levering himself up from behind a table, fumbling to reload his crossbow, Fred cringing on the ground amidst scattered water bottles and energy bars, eyes wide and terrified; Barty standing against Hermione, hands raised and face set in grim determination, Dawn staring with a mixture of recognition and fear at Barty… and, between Spike and the exit stood Angel, holding the struggling Slayer, an empty syringe sticking out of her arm.

“Calm down!” Angel was saying to Elara. “I’m alright! I’m alright! Just – calm down.”

“Bastard!” Elara’s shouted furiously at Wes. “Rang haie-cochon!”

Hermione raised her eyebrows, thrown by the rapid-fire French. “What – what did you do to her, Wes?”

Wes kept his crossbow up defensively against the intruders. “Just a little something to slow her down.”

With an aggravated cry of pure rage Elara plucked the emptied syringe out of her arm and threw it at Wes’ head. It was a poor throw, bouncing off the floor some feet away. “Vilain fils pervers d’une prostituée!”

“Who are they?”

“I – I know you.” Dawn was looking at Barty. “I’ve seen you before...”

“What?” Wes stared. “Who is he?”

“He’s – he’s the guy who saw me that time in the hospital… the time I took the blood…”

Barty’s face barely flickered. “Dawn Summers.”

Wes swiftly angled his crossbow towards Barty. “Who are you?”

“Crétin!” Elara spat at Wes, nearly wrenching herself out of Angel’s grasp, a murderous light in her eyes. “I will kill you!”

“Du calme,” Barty murmured over his shoulder to her, stepping carefully sideways to place himself between Elara and the others. “Du calme.”

“She’s a Slayer.” Wes’ tones were icy. “Move out of the way.”

Barty instantly manifested a magical barrier around Elara and him, eyes dark and tongue flicking out of his mouth in concentration.

Now Hermione stared at Barty. “Who – who are you?”

“Je te plante ça en plein visage avec une fourchette rouillée!” Elara spat.

“What is she saying?” Dawn asked, eyes wide in wonder.

“Um,” Angel blushed. “Nothing polite.”

“J’espère que vous tombez dans une cuvette de porc et vous noyez!”

“Hey,” Angel interrupted Elara, taking her head in his hands and making her look at him. “Hey! I’m alright, okay? I only got a few bruises.”

Barty rolled his eyes.

“C’est un putain de trouillard! Il m’a fait quelque chose.” She pulled his hands away. “Il m’a fait faible, le bâtard.”

“Bugger me.” Spike couldn’t help being impressed. “But Frenchie’s got a bit of a mouth on her, don’t she?”

Everybody turned to stare at Spike.

Angel’s jaw dropped open.

Spike?”

In the single second that everyone was distracted by Spike’s presence, Barty shot a blast from his hands at Hermione, which she narrowly avoided by dropping to the concrete.

“Hermione!” Dawn shouted.

“Don’t!” Elara told Barty. “You aren’t strong enough yet!”

But Barty wouldn’t listen to her, stalking towards Hermione and firing spells while Wes, Fred and Dawn took cover behind the overturned table.

Spike started running for the exit – but Elara stood firmly in his way. “No running. Not without us.”

“Come on, then!” Spike grinned. “Yer boyfriend’s busy, let’s have a go!”

But Elara shook her head. “I can’t fight you.”

“Spike!” Angel snarled, “Back off!”

“Fine.” Spike shrugged. “Don’t mind if you wanna fight, yer great big poof!”

“Spike!” Angel tried to step forward. “Wait –”

Spike leapt, pinning Angel to the ground under his knees, and began to smack him hard in the face with his fists. Left and right, left and right...

Spike could almost match the rhythm of his punches with Angel’s desperately pounding heartbeat beneath him…

“Arrêtez!” The Slayer cried out, trying to pull Spike off. “Stop!”

Wait.

Heartbeat?

Spike stopped, staring down incredulously at a very human Angel: face bleeding, eye bruised, and gasping in pain on the floor beneath him.

Human….

Angel was human?

“How in the bloody hell …?”

A burst of magic knocked Spike sideways, and he tumbled over to land awkwardly on his side.

“She said for you to stop.”

Barty was standing there, eyes black as pitch, glaring at Spike. Without a further word he turned and held out a hand to Elara as she struggled to get to her feet.

Everybody needs to stop!” Dawn had stood, looking every bit like her sister as she glared at everyone. “Just everyone take a big damn breath and stop, alright?”

Hermione lowered her hands uncertainly, a look of deep confusion on her face. “Why do I get the feeling that I’m missing something?”

“You and me both, witch.” Spike stared back at Angel. “How come Angel’s human?”

“Angel?” Hermione asked blankly. “Why are you calling him Angel?”

Wes exchanged a look with Dawn and Fred. “Uh…”

Angel coughed and wiped his mouth. “It’s a long story.” He looked up at Spike. “Wanna tell me what the hell you’re doing here?” His eyes drifted down to where Barty’s long coat had fallen open. “And… Spike. Why aren’t you wearing any pants?”

“But… you’re human.” Spike repeated stupidly. “How the hell did you become human?”

“Oh, you know,” Angel said blandly. “Died fighting an apocalypse, and then came back to life as a human, the usual.”

“And how very disappointing that must have been.” Barty drawled.

“What?” Hermione started. “You – what?”

Wes, still holding his crossbow – though not at anyone in particular – exchanged another glance with Dawn and Fred. “Perhaps we should… uh, agree to a truce…”

The Slayer, weak as she was, growled at Wes. “Va te faire foutre! We are leaving with Angel,” she declared, leaning on Barty’s arm. “And Spike,” She lifted her chin. “He is coming too. I will die before I let you take him to Glory.”

“Uh, Elly,” Angel coughed again. “I don’t think… I don’t think they’re going to.”

“Um, I think we all need to… to not fight for a few minutes...”  Fred swallowed. “And, just sit down and have – have a long talk together.”

“I think,” Wes put his crossbow down, “That would be a very good idea.”

 


 

Back at the Slayers’ Command Centre, Simone ran a sweaty hand through her stiff pink hair as she and two dozen Slayers crowded in the conference room.

At the front, a slim woman stood waiting, eerily still.

Simone took her place next to the woman. As the Slayers filed in, she looked at her out of the corner of her eye. “Will it really only take one hour?” She asked the woman quietly.

Green eyes regarded her.

“With what I give you? Maybe even less.”

Blinds were closed, doors locked, and phones turned off.

Simone cleared her throat. “You all know why we’re here.”

The Slayers didn’t answer, the tension in the room as heavy as a coffin lid.

“We’ve made a pact.” Simone said. “This is our time to fulfil it.”

The woman began to walk between them, giving each Slayer a small vial of dark liquid.

“We drink this, it’ll be just like going to sleep.” Simone promised them. “We’ve tested it before, and it’s worked. Even better than expected. So I’m not asking you to do this blind. We’re gonna be stronger, faster, more powerful than ever. We’re even gonna be able to walk in the sun, and it’s gonna be real hard to kill us. Wooden stakes won’t have any effect on us. So when you wake up, you wait in this room for my orders. Because the first thing we’re gonna do is find them: Spike and Dawn. You know the drill. It’s what we’ve been practicing and preparing for. Track them down, extract them, and bring them to Glory.”

The woman returned to Simone, holding out the last vial in her hand to her.

The liquid was thick and almost black, a jelly-like mess of stuff she didn’t even want to think about.

Simone stifled a shiver.

“Scared?” The green eyes glittered.

“Fuck off.” Simone snatched it and held it up for the other Slayers to see.

She took the stopper out, her face fierce and proud.

“As one.”

“To the death.” They answered, and drank.

 

 

Chapter Text

PREVIOUSLY…

“Um, I think we all need to… to not fight for a few minutes...” Fred swallowed. “And, just sit down and have a long talk together.”

“I think,” Wes said slowly, “That would be a very good idea.”

 


 

 

 Suddenly Elara swayed a little, running a shaky hand over her face. Barty held her up as her legs buckled, and she all but collapsed in his arms.

“What did you do?” Barty’s gaze at Wes was pure malevolence. “What was in that syringe?”

Angel grimaced. “I think I can guess.”

“It’s a fast acting serum,” Wes adjusted his glasses, “Designed to supress a Slayer’s power. We developed it not long after… well, not long after Buffy’s spell released all the potential Slayers.”

“J’espère que tu te faufileras et te sodomiseras avec une carotte pourrie!” Elara gasped out, as though in pain.

Angel’s cheeks reddened even more deeply than before as Wes slowly worked out what the Slayer had just said.

“Marvellous language, innit?” Spike chuckled, enjoying his grandsire’s embarrassment.

“Shut up Spike!” Angel hissed.

Spike grinned even wider. “Used to get sick of Harm blathering on about going to France all the time; but I hafta admit, it was fun there, wasn’t it?”

“I won’t apologise.” Wes said stiffly to Elara. “It was for everyone’s protection.”

Dawn looked from Elara to Barty and back again. “Alright. I wanna know who you guys are.”

Angel shrugged. “Elara lives with me. We work together. And Barty –”

“None of your business.” Barty said coolly.

“Uh huh. Well, I think we’d all better lay our cards out on the table.” Dawn frowned. “Have a real long talk, like Fred says.”

“Come on,” Fred started to turn over one of the few unbroken chairs, and carefully gestured to Elara and Barty. “Let’s sit her down here.”

Elara reluctantly allowed herself to be helped over to sit.

Barty stayed by her side, scowling at everyone.

“Right,” Dawn folded her arms. “Time to talk.”

Elara glared at Wes. “I am not talking with that crétin!” Then she turned to Spike. “And you! Stupid idiot! We were trying to help you!”

“Yeah, whatever, Frenchie,” Spike rolled his eyes. “But yer can’t blame me for wantin’ a go. ‘Sides, thought he was still in the ranks of the un-livin’…”

“Well, I’m not a vampire. Not anymore.” Angel rubbed his head.

“Uh.” Hermione cleared her throat. “What do you mean, ‘not anymore’?”

Angel deliberated, before finally shrugging. “There was a prophecy. That a vampire with a soul would… turn into a human, as a reward for their role in an apocalypse.”

Spike snorted. “Typical. Of course you’d have a bloody prophecy about you.”

“So…” Hermione faltered. “You – you were a vampire… and then you became a human?”

Angel started to limp to a seat. “Something like that.”

Hermione hadn’t stopped staring at Angel. “When did this happen?”

Angel sighed, leaning back, and stared at his feet. “The Last Battle of L.A.”

Spike made a confused face. “The last what of what?”

“About two years ago. The last organised resistance against Glory made a stand in L.A. We’d already left long before then.” Wes glanced at Fred. “Probably the one thing that saved our lives.”

“It was good you went.” Angel looked sheepish. “The last weeks were bad. The Slayers betrayed us, went over to Glory’s side… Glory eventually destroyed the whole city…” He and Elara shared a brief look. “I was there to the end. I died… but somehow I woke up human, and there was nothing left of L.A.”

Wes cleared his throat. “Fred and I knew – when we saw you again, that you must’ve fulfilled the prophecy. I heard you’d fought with the Vampires, but it was hard to believe. Especially now that you’re working for the Slayers. We figured they’d captured you and given you a choice, and you’d just chosen the safest option.” His distaste for Angel was evident.

“Wasn’t that at all.” Angel said. “They don’t even know about me. To them, Liam O’Connor is just another ambitious human, just another tool for them.”

“You can say that again,” Spike muttered under his breath, pacing impatiently.

Hermione turned to Dawn, Wes and Fred accusingly. “You could’ve told me!”

“Well, we did try to last night…” Wes shook his head.

“I meant before last night!”

“But what difference would it have made?” Wes countered.

“Well, I wouldn’t have made such an idiot of myself!”

Dawn looked down at the ground. “Sorry, Hermione. We did talk about it… but we thought it was better if you didn’t know.”

“We knew if you found out who he was,” Fred’s voice was soft, “You’d be wanting to talk to him, and we couldn’t risk that. We thought… he’d just turn you over to the Slayers.”

“In the end we decided we couldn’t trust him.” Wes said.

“Well –” Hermione began.

Angel hastily interjected. “I’m sorry Wes. I wanted to tell you. All of you.” He spread his hands. “But… we weren’t sure we could trust you.”

Wes looked sharply at Angel. “You couldn’t trust us? What about you? All the questions, and following us home from work...”

“I was using my job to keep tabs on you.” Angel shrugged and nodded at Elara, whose lips were drawn in a thin line. “It’s how we survived. Hiding in plain sight. I decided to work for the Slayers, get as much intel as I could from them, and Elly... well, she just pretended to be my ordinary… housemate. I figured it was the best way. I’m sorry, Wes. I didn’t know which side you were really on. And I couldn’t have Simone thinking I was doing anything else except my job. That’s why I didn’t make it a secret that I was following you.”

“Stalkin’ huh? So, still up to yer usual tricks then –” Spike said flatly.

Fred interrupted hastily as Angel turned even redder. “So… you said you’re playing a part to try and hide what you’re doing from the Slayers – what are you doing?”

“I’m sorry. I can’t share any more with you. It’d be… putting others in danger.”

“There’s more than just the three of you?” Fred was interested.

“There’s more people working against the Slayers than you know.” Barty said with a finality that discouraged any further discussion.

“More secrets.” Wes looked away. “Doesn’t matter if you’re human or vampire, you’re still the same Angel as always.”

Angel winced. “Sorry. The less you know, the better.”

Unsatisfied, Fred fidgeted and looked at both Angel and Elara. “But what made you come to us last night?”

Angel sighed, and looked at them straight. “I put two and two together. We suspected Dawn was with you. I knew Hermione must have taken the runaway. I came to find out if you’d helped him, or just stolen him to sell for money. And I wanted to see if we could trust you. We didn’t know if it actually was Spike, but it was too big a risk to ignore. You know Glory’s been expecting Spike to arrive at any time through a portal. I was told from the very first day that if we ever find a blonde, British vampire –” He glanced at Spike, “We were to arrest him for immediate transport – and take him straight to Glory.” His face softened in apology. “I’m sorry we didn’t have this talk sooner. Especially now that Spike’s here from the past.”

Spike stopped pacing and jerked around so fast he almost lost his balance. “From the what?”

“The past, Spike.” Dawn explained calmly. “You’ve travelled through a portal five years into the future.”

“And he’s done it more than once.” Barty spoke suddenly.

“Hang on,” Spike stared at them. “How – how do you know?”

“Because you did it right in front of Hermione, dummy.” Dawn pouted.

“In front of us, too.” Elara added. “I thought it was Barty, but when you came back, we knew it was a portal.”

Hermione nodded. “You disappeared last night through one. We didn’t know if we’d even see you again.”

“Alright, alright everyone, back up just a minute,” Spike rubbed at his head. “What I wanna know is how… what… how?”

Fred looked at him compassionately. “Spike. What do you remember?”

“I dunno.” He thought. “Woke up naked in an alleyway.” He leered at Hermione, who rolled her eyes.

Fred nodded. “You came through a portal.”

“What about before that?” Dawn asked impatiently. “What do you remember before that?”

“Well that’s the thing..." he admitted reluctantly. "I can’t remember. I mean I remember bits and pieces when I come back...”

“A lot of us came here through a portal with…altered memories.” Hermione stared down at her hands. “One second, we were in our world, the next…”

“Naked and in this one.” Dawn finished.

“I was also naked.” Elara mused, remembering. "One of my best battles, that night."

"What?" Wes was stunned.

“You Americans and your silly customs," she scowled at him haughtily. "All true warriors are not ashamed of their bodies. I would always fight naked, if it were not for this stupid place and its stupid rules."

Angel’s face went a little pink and he looked away, but Barty looked at her with amused interest.

"No..." Wes pushed his glasses up, "I meant... you're... you're from another dimension too?"

"Idiot." Elara looked away in distaste. "Of course I am."

Angel cleared his throat and turned to Spike. “I heard that you were dead…well, deader. That you’d died in Sunnydale.”

“Dead?” Spike felt distinctly ill.

“It was about five years ago now.” Angel paused, thinking. “I think around the middle of 2001 –”

“You died a hero.” Dawn interrupted.

“Hero?” Spike’s head spun, and he felt his gut lurch.

He had a sudden, displaced memory of Dawn, standing in a stone archway, saying, “I feel safe with you.”

“Five years ago, Glory used Dawn’s blood to open up all the portals.” Wes said. “But you managed to close them. Now Glory’s stuck here. Indefinitely. Unless she gets hold of Dawn again. Although, she seems rather interested in getting you as well.”

For a moment, Spike saw Dawn’s face in his mind as she cried out his name, tearstained cheeks and dripping blood.

Echoes howled around him as he'd looked into that face, those pleading blue eyes, before he let himself fall…

No.

No, no, no, no, no.

His head started up its painful throbbing again. He felt a gentle hand rest on his shoulder.

It was Fred, looking at him with concern.

“Do you need to sit too?”

“No.” He scowled, shrugging her off. He tried to step away from her, but for some reason his feet were not responding. “Maybe.” He conceded.

“Accept it, Spike. You tried to save the whole …” Angel searched for the right word. “…multiverse, by sacrificing yourself.”

Spike groaned.

Spike finally gave in to Fred, and let her lead him to her chair, where he sat heavily.

"But I'm evil." He whispered. "I love being evil. Why would I do something so bloody stupid?"

"As much you're gonna hate to hear it, Spike," Angel said wryly, "Maybe you're not so in love with being evil as you think."

 

Chapter Text

Around the warehouse perimeter, dozens of Slayers moved silently into position.

Wearing masks and riot gear, they waited for the signal.

Holly positioned the devices in the centre of the door and moved back, unwinding the cables attached to the trigger as she went. She crouched next to Simone and waited.

Simone, nearly the only Slayer not in riot gear, stood and raised a fist, held it.

When she dropped it, Holly released the trigger.

At the first explosion, the entire warehouse trembled.

 


 

"Slayers!" Hermione yelled.

"How did they find us?" Fred cried.

"Doesn't matter." Dawn suddenly took command. "Everyone, grab what you can, we need to leave."

"It's too late!" Wes shouted.

Slayers came pouring in through the blasted remains of the door.

"Immobulus!" Hermione spun, sending a flash of blue towards them.

Several Slayers fell awkwardly, arms and legs sticking out in funny angles like prancing mannequins.

Another explosion, this time above their heads, sent Angel and Dawn scurrying out of the way back towards the overturned table. Spike just managed to dive away in the other direction, as huge chunks of the roof crashed in to the floor.

Wes was hit hard with a heavy sheet of corrugated iron, slamming his head hard as he collapsed under it. The crossbow slid out of his hand across the concrete.

"Wes!" Fred rushed to his side.

In the chaos, Elara snatched the crossbow, before Barty pulled her to where Angel and Dawn were taking cover.

Another wave of Slayers came through the door, leaping over the frozen bodies of their sisters.

"Right," said Spike, turning to face the intruders. "Let's have a go, then!"

He started in on two Slayers that tried to punch him, dodging their blows and fighting back with wild abandon.

Hermione sent blast after blast towards the Slayers coming into the warehouse, but she was weakening, and the spells missed more than they hit.

"Hermione!" Dawn shouted. "You have to hide!"

"They're fast." Barty muttered.

"Too fast." Angel looked worried.

"That's because," Elara's face was set in determination, "They are no longer Slayers."

And she aimed a crossbow without hesitation at the nearest Slayer racing towards her.

But the Slayer moved too quickly, sliding out of the way of the crossbow bolt at the last moment to vault over their heads, and land behind them.

Several more Slayers surrounded them, semi-automatic weapons ready to fire.

In desperation, Hermione tried to turn and fight, but the Slayer caught her fast, twisting her arm behind her and snapping it viciously till the bones pierced the skin. Hermione's scream was awful.

Spike heard the scream and spun to see Hermione's blood-soaked arm hanging loosely at her side.

"Fuck me," he muttered.

In his distraction, more Slayers tackled Spike, and he went down.

The Slayer who'd broken Hermione's arm wrenched her head back by her hair.

"We're not even here for you." She told her through her riot mask. "We're here for Spike and Dawn."

She threw her to the ground to land heavily on her mangled arm, and Hermione screamed again.

Elara crawled to protect Hermione where she lay, even as her face was white and beads of sweat formed on her brow.

"That one's brave," said a Slayer, and the rest laughed.

Barty tried to cast a spell, but another Slayer smashed a fist into his jaw before he could complete it.

Angel heard the swift crack of bone, and pulled Elara back to himself, whispering urgently in her ear.

She turned to Barty as he fell, her pale face both furious and afraid.

Hermione still lay, shallow breaths bubbling through bloody lips.

The sound of several metal canisters bouncing on the concrete floor from above sounded like a toneless bell.

Almost immediately a white cloud of gas erupted and quickly filled the space.

"Cover your mouths!" Dawn cried.

Spike struggled against the Slayers pinning him to the ground.

In the confusion of the tear gas, he somehow shoved them off and ran.

The gas didn't affect him much, apart from making his eyes burn a little, but it was too thick to see clearly through, even with vampire vision, and it stank of rancid vinegar.

He could barely see his hand in front of his face, let alone the way out.

Around him he could hear the others choking and coughing.

"Caeli!" gasped Hermione from somewhere nearby. "Omnino Abscondam Wes…Omnino… Abscondam… F-Fred…" Her voice faded.

Flashbang grenades erupted in bright white blasts in the fog, drowning out the rest of Hermione's words.

"Move in!" came a shout from outside. "I want Spike and Dawn alive!"

Masked figures began moving through the slowly clearing cloud, assault rifles trained in the direction of their coughing and spluttering targets.

Spike tried to run for the stacks of pallets under the stairs, but he was too late.

Three Slayers sailed down from the hole in the roof and landed on the dusty rubble right in front of him.

"HANDS ON YOUR HEAD AND GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES! DO NOT MOVE!" The Slayers jerked their rifles in Spike's face. "ON YOUR KNEES!"

Spike stared beyond the rifle to the masked figure holding it.

There was something wrong.

He took in a deep breath through his nose.

He listened.

His eyes widened.

"Hey, we're on the same side here –" He protested.

She locked the bolt back, her finger a hair's breadth from the trigger. "Want a headache, just say the word."

"Ah, bollocks." Spike slowly raised his hands and knelt.

The other Slayers dragged Angel, Dawn and Elara over to where Spike was being held at gunpoint.

One of them looked closer at Spike. "Well, whaddaya know? It's the runaway."

"Nisha." Angel coughed and wiped the dust from his eyes.

Nisha slowly took her mask off.

Her eyes glinted in the dusty light.

"On your knees, Liam. There's someone who wants to have a little chat with you."

Angel reluctantly sank down onto his knees alongside Elara.

Spike could just make out the exit now as the cloud of tear gas began to lift. He wondered how fast he could sprint, and if he'd be fast enough to get to the door.

Nisha nodded to the Slayer in front of Spike. "Keep your eye on that one. He's slippery."

Slowly, the tear gas began to dissipate as more Slayers surrounded him.

Spike stole glances around the warehouse, but he couldn't see any of the others.

He couldn't hear them either.

So that made them dead, or far, far away.

Meaning there was only him, Peaches, Frenchie and the Slayer's little sister left.

"Bugger," he muttered.

He had a feeling he was about to be in deeper shit than ever, and it was not a good feeling.

Nisha lifted her rifle and let it rest on her shoulder as she stood over Liam. "Guess the good times are gonna be over for you now, O'Connor."

Angel laughed scornfully.

Elara turned cold eyes on him from where she knelt. "Cochon." She told him.

Angel smirked. "Oink, oink."

Elara shook her head and murmured, "Un cochon ne peut pas travailler pour les loups et ne pas s'attendre à être-mangé."

"What was that?" Nisha growled. "What did she just say?"

"I said a pig can't work for wolves and not expect to be eaten." Elara's lips quirked humourlessly. "Especially mangy, toothless wolves who stink worse than gutter piss."

"Get ready to run," Angel whispered to Spike.

Nisha slammed her rifle into the side of Elara's head. She fell hard.

Angel was up instantly. Without hesitation he'd somehow produced a stake and stabbed it into Nisha's heart, pressing it until its point pierced through her back.

Nisha threw him backwards, where he landed with a heavy grunt.

"You fucker!" The Slayer stumbled backwards, staring incredulously at the stake protruding from her chest. "What the hell did you just do?"

In the confusion, Spike did not hesitate, barrelling through towards the exit, hoping against hope that he'd make it.

Crash!

He slammed into a solid wall of Slayer, and bounced backwards.

Stunned and slightly dazed, he looked up.

And froze.

"Spike." Buffy smiled. "Long time no see."

 

Chapter Text

Buffy stood there, in all her blonde-haired glory, hands on hips and looking about at the destruction in the warehouse.

Spike continued to stare up at her.

“Why can I smell blood?” She frowned. “I thought I said no killing.”

Deep within, Spike’s other consciousness – the one that kept taking over every time he went back in time to the tower – stirred, stretched, and unfolded at the sight of her.

With powerful clarity, Spike suddenly knew why he kept travelling through a portal back to the tower.

It was because of her.

It was because of Buffy.

Every time he panicked or was genuinely in fear for his life, he was somehow - and he had no idea how - escaping to the one point where he knew she was, the last and only point he could prove himself to her forever.

And memory after memory, of her flooded his mind – her frowns, her smiles, and her liquid green eyes; her tears, her biting sarcasm, her rejection, her acceptance...

She was why the other him kept rising up, kept trying to save Dawn, kept fighting even when they both knew it was futile.

If he’d had a beating heart, it would have pounded its way out of his chest by now, and Spike would have numbly lifted it to her in its raw state, in the hopes that such a poor heart as his would be somehow acceptable to Buffy.

Buffy Summers was ethereal.

Buffy Summers was a shining goddess.

All else was eclipsed in her light.

“What’s up, Spike?” She said lightly, her face casual. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

The goddess was speaking to him.

Thank the powers that be that he no longer needed to breathe.

“Cat got your tongue?” She smiled.

He was hopelessly lost.

She frowned.

“You can still speak, right?”

“You’re… ” He stammered stupidly. “The way…. they talked about you…. I thought you were…”

“Dead?” Buffy laughed. “Yeah,” She leaned in conspiratorially and patted him on the cheek. “I often am. But never for long.”

Spike swallowed, staring into those green eyes.

Her cold fingers caressed his cheek, and she ran her thumb lightly over his lips.

Spike felt like he was going to dust.

Behind her, Simone Doffler entered and stood beside her.

“So, is that him?” She asked.

“Sure is.” Buffy straightened abruptly. “Haul Spikey over, I wanna see who else we got.”

 


 

Nisha had just wrenched the slippery stake out of her chest, and dropped it on the concrete floor. “You absolute moron!”

Angel stared up from where Nisha had thrown him to the ground, still in shock. “But – that should’ve killed you.”

The gaping wound in her chest swiftly closed over, the skin reknitting itself back together before their eyes.

“They’re more than vampire.” Elara whispered.

“Well, duh,” Nisha sneered and drew her fist back to punch Angel in the face.

“Uh, uh,” Buffy was beside her, laying a hand on her arm. “I thought I told you to play nice.”

Nisha hesitated, then shrugged and dropped her fist, wiping her blood off on her skirt in disgust.

Angel!” Buffy positively sparkled when she saw him. “Haven’t seen you in ages! You’re looking a little banged up there, though. Humanity not agreeing with you?”

Angel’s mouth grew thin as he grimaced, barely even acknowledging her.

Dawn couldn’t look at Buffy at all.

“And my little sis.” Buffy’s face was casual again. “I’ve been looking for you.”

Simone forced Spike down, while Buffy looked happily at the very sorry figures kneeling in front of her.

“So that’s the Key.” Simone said, completely unimpressed.

“Yup. That’s my sister.” Buffy shrugged.

“I hate you.” Dawn said softly.

Buffy didn’t answer, turning instead to Simone. “We just need Spike, really. The rest can wait.”

Simone looked confused. “But don’t we need Dawn to –”

Buffy’s gaze turned cold.

Simone faltered.

“We have Spike.” Buffy said. “And besides,” Her gaze bounced between Angel and Elara, “You’re overestimating Glory’s IQ. All we really need is to give her a girl… any girl… who’d be about Dawn’s age, with the same kind of hair. By the time she thinks to look closer…” Buffy shrugged again and grinned.

Simone regarded Elara with disdain. “I suppose… it could work. They already know about Spike,” Simone thought about it some more. “Glory doesn’t know about Dawn yet anyway.”

Buffy nodded. “We can send the good news that we’ve found both once we’re on our way. I don’t want to give her too much time to think. She’s dumb, but I still wouldn’t want to underestimate her.”

“Buffy...” For a brief moment, Angel's mask of pretended hostility slipped. “You can’t send Elly – she’s – she’s been – she’s not strong enough.”

“And what do I care?” Buffy smiled tightly.

“Je peux y aller.” Elara said softly.

Spike and Angel turned and looked at her.

Angel’s hands tightened into fists. “Je ne vous laisserai pas mourir.”

But Elara shook her head. “Pourquoi tu ne la crois pas?”

Spike looked at Buffy, whose eyes were darting quickly between Angel and Elara, trying to follow the French.

Angel spoke rapidly, obviously frustrated. “Nous avions déjà un plan.”

Spike’s eyes widened, and he looked at Buffy with even more interest.

Angel glared. “Je croyais qu’on était d’accord!”

“Alright, if you guys are gonna keep doing your French thing, I swear I’m gonna lose it.” Buffy snapped.

“Buffy, you’re making a mistake!” Angel snapped back.

Spike rolled his eyes. “Oh, don’t be such a bleedin’ drama queen, Angel.”

“Want me to –” Nisha started.

“No!” Buffy growled.

“Take me.” Dawn stood suddenly. “Don’t take her. Take me.”

But Buffy ignored her, standing over Angel instead. “Well, that’s too bad, Angel, cos I have more use for Elara than I do for you!”

“She got injected with Slayer suppressant!”

“Oh, god, who cares?” Spike groaned. “It’s not like she’ll be the first girlfriend you’ve ever let run off to fight a big bad half-cocked.”

Elara turned red. “I am not his girlfriend.”

Buffy grinned, diverted, and winked conspiratorially at Spike. “Well, I did hear – on the grapevine – that there was this one time, these guys accidentally drank a love potion…”

“It was just the one time.” Angel coughed, embarrassed.

Elara couldn’t look at anyone. “C’était la pire soirée de ma vie.”

Angel looked away.

Spike chuckled. “Oh no, don’t tell me Peaches has gone a bit soft in the sack?”

“Hel-lo?” Dawn said, louder than before. “Why don’t you take me? You want to give someone to Glory. Fine. Why not actually give me? I’m the one she wants.”

Buffy scowled.

The Slayers around her shifted impatiently, their weapons still trained on their hostages.

“You know,” Simone observed, “It’s not like Glory’s gonna live long enough to get a chance to even use her.”

The Slayers all looked towards Buffy, waiting.

“I’ll go.” Dawn said resolutely. “Just leave them alone.”

“You know what?” Buffy took a deep breath and smiled brightly. “Whatever. It’s not like I care if you die or not.”

Dawn’s eyes were bright with tears as Simone jerked her chin at a few of the Slayers, who promptly came and took hold of Dawn and Spike. “Go on, get her and Spike in the back of the van.”

Spike gave Buffy a sly wink as he was marched past her, which she pretended to ignore.

Nisha looked at Angel and Elara. “We gonna take anyone else?”

“We don’t need them.” Buffy gave a disinterested glance around the warehouse. “And it looks like the others ran off anyway.”

“So what’ll we do with him?” Simone nodded at Angel.

Buffy’s sneered. “Oh. I have plans for him. But, like I said, they can wait.”

“I thought we were gonna turn him.” Nisha pouted.

Simone crouched down in front of Angel. “Whaddaya say, Angel? Wanna be a vampire again?”

Angel looked past Simone. “Buffy… please.”

“Things change, Angel.” Buffy said meaningfully.

“Damn right they do.” Simone stood and looked at Angel coldly. “How stupid did you think I was anyway, O’Connor?”

Angel closed his eyes, looking even paler than before.

“What, you thought I wouldn’t find out?” Simone sneered. “Buffy told me everything. About how you became human. About how you lied. And all this time, you had me convinced you were just Liam O’Connor: just another self-serving, ambitious jerk.”

“Alright Simone, give him a break.” Buffy seemed amused.

“A break?” Simone snarled. “Why? When he never gave me one? Did he even care that I had to make shit up to Glory about all those pathetic humans that kept somehow being freed? Those ones that kept mysteriously disappearing from our cells? Well, bad news, boy, cos Glory still ordered off the menu, and we were the ones who had to come up with the dishes. So it’s about time you paid the bill. And we’ve got something real special in mind for you.”

“I’ll do whatever you want.” Angel pleaded. “Just leave Elly out of it.”

Simone didn’t even look at Elara.

“Her?” She stepped in, forcing his chin up to look at her. “Sure, babe. Soon, you’re not gonna want her anymore anyway.” She leant down and pushed her face in until her nose almost touched his. “I’m gonna be the one to remind you what you’ve been missing out on.”

Angel didn’t flinch, which seemed to please her.

“I want him with us.” Simone jerked a thumb at Angel. “You promised I could turn him.”

Buffy shook her head. “Yeah, I can see you’re real keen, but it can wait. Leave a couple of the girls to watch. He won’t be going anywhere.”

“No.” Simone planted her feet firmly apart. “We need as many of the girls as we can get. Angel comes with us.”

“Are you – telling me what to do?” Buffy’s voice was soft.

Simone seemed to visibly swallow, but she refused to move. “Hate to say it, Buff, but the last time we went up against Glory, you died. In L.A. Remember?”

One moment, Buffy was standing several feet from Simone.

The next, her hand was closing around Simone’s throat. “You came to me for help. You asked me, to help you. So we are going to do it my way. Is that understood?”

“Y-yesss!” Simone rasped.

“Good.” Buffy threw her away.

She turned her eyes to the other Slayers. “Angel stays. Now let’s go.”

“Buffy.” Angel called out after her, but she didn’t stop. “Buffy!”

Simone got slowly to her feet, massaging her throat.

“You.” She pointed at Nisha. “You can stay here.”

“What?” Nisha whined.

“You guard them til we get back.”                                                                

“But I wanna –”

“Shut. Up.” Simone hissed in Nisha’s face. “You’ll stay here, and you’ll watch over them both. Understand?”

Nisha pouted like a brat. “Fine.”

Simone waited until Buffy was well and truly gone, before she turned to Nisha once more, and pulled her close to say quietly in her ear. “Once we’re gone, I want you to turn Angel. Give him your blood. Understand? Kill the French bitch, and turn him.”

Nisha grinned fiercely in response. “Sure thing, boss.”

 

 

Chapter Text

The throneroom at the Glorificasa Mansion was spectacular.

Polished black marble floors, black marble pillars in the Greek style stretching up to the ceiling, magenta drapes hemmed with gold, and in the centre of the throneroom, a huge ornate bronze firepit, its flames providing a constant dry heat to the enormous room.

Glory, lounging sideways on her sumptuous gold throne, eyes closed and humming along to her iPod, did not notice the intruders to her throneroom at first.

Most of the Slayers stopped just short of the bronze firepit in the centre, but Simone grabbed Spike and marched him until they reached the base of the golden dais, ignoring the protestations of Glory’s minions that she ‘not pollute Her Majesty with her common Slayer-ness’

Murk approached Glory’s throne with his usual abject deference, after casting a nasty glare at Simone, and called out loudly, “O, most Magnificent and Command-…”

He was interrupted by her off-key singing as Glory bobbed her head along to the music. “No, I won’t give in, I won’t give in!”

Murk cleared his throat loudly. “Magnificent and Commanding and Arresting–”

“Oh so Glorious! Until the end, until the eennnnnd!”

“O Most Magnificent and Commanding and Arresting Goddess of our Lives –”

Glory riffed with an air guitar. “Denana-nah! Denana-nah!”

“GODDESS OF OUR LIVES!”

Glory opened her eyes and saw the crowd in her throne room. “Ugh.”

She threw her iPod to the side and pouted.

“This had better be good!” She stretched her toes, admiring her shoes. “Cos if this one’s another fake, you’re all dead!”

Simone shoved Spike, tightly bound, down onto his knees on the richly embroidered carpet at the bottom of the dais.

“It’s him.” Simone stepped forward as her Slayers began to slowly form into ranks around the edges of the throneroom. “We made sure. He’s the one.”

“O your Eminence, we must apologise for the insult the Slayers’ presence brings you...” Murk whined.

“We tried to tell them we would bring them ourselves, but they insisted on being here!” Jinx complained.

Glory raised a heavily jewelled hand. “Shut up.”

She stood regally, smoothed her dress and began to descend the steps from her throne, her eyes trained on the vampire with the white blonde hair.

She stopped just short of where Spike knelt.

“It’s not moving.” She eventually said. “Is it dead?”                          

“He just looks that way,” Simone prodded him with a foot. “Say something, Spike.”

Spike cocked an eyebrow, but said nothing.

“Well, how am I supposed to tell if it’s him or not?”

Annoyed, Glory scanned the Slayers before her, her expression one of utter distaste.

“And who’s that?” She pointed at the gagged and pale-faced Dawn.

Simone cleared her throat. “The Key.”

Glory froze. “I don’t believe it!”

“She was hiding with the vampire.”

“Why didn’t you tell me this before?” She cried out excitedly. “Bring her here! Let me see her!”

With a nod, Simone directed the two Slayers holding Dawn to bring her forward.

Glory studied Dawn’s face as the Slayers about her began to surreptitiously close in. “You’ve changed!”

“It has been five years, your eminence,” Murk bowed. “Humans age, unlike your Transcendent –”

“Has it really been five years?” Glory pouted in thought. “I suppose it has.”

Almost affectionately, Glory took Dawn’s face between her hands. “So you grew up, honey! And you smell more powerful than ever! You know, I’m not usually one for reunions, but this is really something special,” the hell-goddess tenderly loosened her gag. “I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed you!”

 


 

Nisha drew her fist back and punched Angel in the face.

“That’s for lying to everyone about who you were, Angel.”

Another punch.

“That’s for trying to kill me with your stupid stake,” she spat.

Another punch.

“And that – that’s just for being such a grade-A asshole!”

Nearby, Elara moaned on the concrete and held herself.

“Elly…Elly, hold on…” Angel tried dizzily to turn his head and look at her, but the punches had done a number on him, and he could barely move.

“You know, I think… I might’ve broken her ribs...”

She threw another punch at Angel, this time on the other side of his head.

The sound of cracking bone was unmistakeable.

“Ooops. Guess I don’t know my own strength.” Nisha grinned.

Nisha landed several more punches to Angel’s face, before rocking back and looking over at Elara.

“Don’t you worry,” Nisha called. “Got half a mind to turn you too, bitch.”

Angel’s eyes were nearly swollen shut, and his mouth a mess, but he still managed to focus on the smudge that was Nisha’s face above him and lisp, “You’re gonna die.”

Nisha laughed in his face.

“Buffy will kill you.”

“Oh, Angel. What makes you think Buffy’s even gonna survive Glory?” Her teeth sharpened. “And even if she does, it’s gonna be too late. Simone’s gonna take care of Buffy, as soon as Glory’s dead.”

She practically drooled as she breathed in the scent of Angel’s sweat, his fear.

“Anyway, what makes you think I’m gonna do what that blonde bitch says? What anyone says anymore?” Lumps rippled on her forehead, and her mocking gaze turned a strange violet. “I don’t actually have to listen to anyone. And especially not to you.” Her eyes reflected eerily. “You’re gonna wake up to an eternity of being my permanent little bitch.”

Then she opened her jaw wide and crunched into his neck.

 


 

The Slayers stealthily began to close in a circle around Glory and Dawn as Glory loosened Dawn’s gag.

“You stupid bitch.” Dawn said coldly the second her gag was off. “They’re here to kill you.”

Glory’s minions began to whimper amongst themselves and back away uncertainly, sensing the rising danger.

Glory glanced over her shoulder at the sound, her red dress skimming over her hips as she turned to eye the Slayers.

“Oh.” She smiled. “Oh, really?”

Glory’s hair shone like burnished metal in a sudden flare from the firepit. She stepped back to look at Simone.

“Do you really think you can take me on?” Her voice had lost all its brassy cheer, and now slid like a sword through the tension of the throneroom. “I thought you were smarter than that.”

“Things are different this time.” Simone said.

“Different?” Glory looked around at them. “I killed three times as many of you in L.A. Or don’t you remember?”

“Only because I helped you.” Simone was cold.

“That’s right honey.” Glory said. “You turned on your sisters. You turned on Buffy. You all betrayed her. I seem to recall you had no problem watching her die that day.”

“Well, that’s just the thing, isn’t it,” called a voice from the other end of the throneroom. “I died… but I kind of didn’t stay dead.”

Glory stared, open-mouthed.

“What the…?”

 


 

Nisha grabbed Angel by the front of his shirt and punched him one more time, just for the satisfaction of it, before letting him fall back limply to the concrete.

Angel had stopped breathing a while ago.

“Well, I guess it’s only a matter of time now,” she told him, studying the blood she’d forced into his mouth, red smears still running over his chin and across his lips.

She stood and stretched before strolling over to lift Elara up with one hand around her throat.

“Your turn now, you little French skank.”

Desperately, Elara closed her eyes and tried to silently call her weapons to her, but she was still too weak.

Nisha shook her, feet swaying above the floor. “Yeah… I don’t think I’ll turn you. I think I’ll just kill you.”

 


 

“But I killed you,” Glory frowned. “You should be dead.”

“Dead?” Buffy held a wicked-looking red scythe in her hands, and stood at the edge of the firepit, her eyes glowing. “I guess I’m just really bad at it.”

Buffy’s face melted and morphed, becoming a face of hard planes and angles, and her green eyes turned violet. She gripped the scythe and lifted it higher, as she bared her teeth in a hideous grin of white fangs.

“What are you?” Glory whispered in wonder.

“I’m the new breed of Slayer.”

And then Buffy moved, leaping up high into the air over the flames of the firepit, swinging her scythe elegantly around and down as she began her descent towards Glory’s awed and upturned face.

Glory moved back, but Buffy was faster. She sliced at Glory with so much force it sent her crashing into her throne.

“Your Eminence!” Cried out Jinx.

“Your Magnificence!” Cried out Murk.

“You’re dead!” snapped Simone, pointing a gun at them; and Pop! Pop! She neatly shot them in their desiccated faces.

The other minions screamed in horror and scrambled fast to the exits.

The Slayers surrounding Glory peeled back their masks, dozens and dozens of vampire faces facing her, with reflective eyes and sharp fangs.

“Go right ahead, Ladies,” Buffy called, as Glory stumbled to her feet, a wide gash of blood showing through her torn dress.

As the Slayers closed in around Glory, Buffy cut Spike and Dawn free.

“Go on.” She said in a curiously detached voice to Spike. “Take Dawn and go.”

Dawn looked at her sister distrustfully. “This doesn’t make things alright.”

“I know.” Buffy tilted her head. “Just go.”

But Spike hesitated. “Buffy…”

“Just go.” She commanded, before turning away towards Glory and the crowd of Slayers.

“Come on, Spike.” Dawn pulled at his arm. “We gotta go.”

Reluctantly, Spike let Dawn start to drag him away out of the throneroom.

 


 

Elara struggled and choked, trying to pry Nisha’s iron fingers from around her neck.

In one last desperate effort, she stopped trying to fight Nisha’s grip and instead placed her hands on Nisha’s head, and, raking the last elements of her magic that she could from within, choked out the words for the dissolution spell – at the same time that a male voice uttered his own spell.

“Intus sunt.”

Nisha dropped Elara.

She looked down in horror at herself.

“Oh F-”

Nisha’s eyes turned inwards, her skin peeled away and reversed itself, her rib cage burst open, and her slippery innards fell to the floor in a black mess, before finally exploding in a shower of dust.

Elara lay where she fell, just grateful to breathe in burning lungfuls of air through her bruised throat.

Strong hands lifted her gently, and black eyes stared down at her.

Elara could barely speak, her voice a thin rasp that had to be strained to be heard.

“Buffy… changed… the plan.”

“You little fool.” Barty whispered. “Of course she did.”

“Je m’excuse…” her eyes fluttered closed. “…de ne te… l’avoir… jamais … mais je..."

But she never finished.

Barty hesitated, before placing a hand against her pale cheek.

He placed his other hand over her chest.

Her heartbeat pulsed weakly… once, twice.

And then stopped.

Barty blinked.

Elara was gone.

For a long time, Barty did not move.

Then he slowly raised his head, and looked over towards Angel’s still form.

 

 

Chapter Text

THE NIGHT BEFORE...

Dr Paul Weston observed Barty was more unkempt than usual: his eyes sunken, his jaw unshaven. He smoothed his hands over his crossed legs, and waited for Barty to relax a little more into his seat.

"So, you're second-guessing Buffy's plan?"

"She said I was to keep staying out of it." Barty shrugged, but it was the tight, jerky move of an exhausted person running on pure adrenaline. "It's what I've been doing."

"I know it's difficult for you to accept her authority…"

Barty almost laughed. "You think?"

Paul shifted in his chair. "When you told us you saw Dawn at the hospital, you never told us what stopped you from acting then and there."

Barty shook his head. "I never make hasty decisions."

"Then do you find it difficult to follow Buffy because you feel she is, perhaps, rushing decisions for you?"

Barty's scowled. "I swore I'd never again be a follower."

"We've talked about this. Working with others is sometimes a necessary evil. It doesn't mean you are somehow less, just because you stop to listen to someone's ideas."

Barty disagreed. "And how long did it take Angel to stop and listen?"

Paul raised his eyebrows. "I fail to see how Angel's behaviour is relevant to you, Barty."

"Everything he does has affected us. For the last six months, ever since they came here, he's been nothing but trouble. The glorious martyr, so self-righteous it took him all this time to forgive Buffy for becoming a vampire, so wonderful that he wins the loyalty of every woman…"

Barty stopped speaking, his jaw clenching in anger.

Paul crossed his legs, appearing to change the subject. "And Angel's partner – the French Slayer –"

"Elara."

"She hasn't interfered this time?"

"She's... kept to her part of the agreement."

Paul looked shrewdly at Barty. "And have you kept to yours?"

"I'm polite. When I see her."

"Which is how often?"

"Often enough." A brief smile flickered on Barty's face. "She always asks when we will fight."

Paul kept his voice casual. "You've shown a lot of interest in her."

Barty looked away.

"So. What is it exactly, that makes you question Buffy's plan?"

"Oh, hmmm, let me think. Turning Slayers into vampires just to kill Glory… no, I can't imagine what could possibly go wrong."

"She's faced Glory before. She believes it's the only thing that will help her succeed in killing Glory."

"She doesn't trust us."

"I think she doesn't want to put the rest of you in danger."

Barty sneered. "You honestly believe that?"

Paul steepled his fingers, contemplating the young man's face. "You know what the situation has been. It's only a matter of time before Simone cracks under the pressure and comes to her for help. She's been patient. Surely you can appreciate that."

"I don't think Glory is the only one who should be destroyed."

"You think we should've gone with your plan?" Paul asked. "You think your plan is better?"

"I know my plan is better."

"Your plan was rejected on the basis that there would be casualties."

"I was honest."

"Buffy promised her plan would have no casualties."

Barty laughed. "No one can make that promise." He looked down at his hands, squeezing his fingers into the palms over and over again. "But at least with my plan, I could make sure no one dies… who matters."

"I think Buffy would say her sister matters."

Barty's eyes could've burned holes. "More than this world?"

It was silent in Paul's study for a minute.

"If that is the case," Paul said. "If that is really what you believe… why did you even bother to come see me?"

Barty was on his feet, his nervous energy getting the best of him. "I don't know." He muttered as he paced behind the couch. "I don't know."

"You're afraid."

Barty's jaw clenched. "I'm afraid of what I'll do, if…"

"If?"

"If things… go wrong."

"Barty," Paul tried to sound reasonable. "Buffy's been waiting for a chance like this for years. We all have. What is the worst that could happen?"

Barty's tongue flicked out as he stopped to stare at something only he could see.

"I don't want to think about it."

 


 

PRESENT...

Hermione woke to the sounds of broken sobs.

Her invisibility charm had long since worn off.

But her broken arm still lay limply, its pain pushing hard at the anaesthetic barrier she'd erected before she passed out.

She slowly sat up.

Fred was kneeling close by, clutching an unconscious Wesley in her lap.

"Where's Dawn?" Hermione asked.

Fred looked up at her, tears streaming down her face, and didn't speak.

"Fred, where's Dawn?"

Fred only looked back down at Wes, her sobs quietening to shallow breaths.

Hermione slowly crawled to her. Cupping her wet chin with her good hand, she lifted Fred's face. "Fred, I need you to tell me. Did the Slayers take Dawn?"

"Yes." She whispered. "They took them both. Dawn and Spike. They took them away."

"Where is everyone else?"

"I think – I think Nisha killed Angel. And the other one – Barty – he took… he took the French girl away. And then… then he came back."

Hermione looked around, but the warehouse was empty. There was no sign of either Angel or Barty.

"Are you sure?"

"I don't know." Fred's empty stare was unnerving. "I don't know." She looked back down at Wes. "It doesn't matter anymore."

Hermione stood, and looked around once more at the empty warehouse.

"I'm going to get them." She said. "I'm going to go and get Dawn and Spike back."

She didn't even look at her broken arm.

Using her good hand, she called the bag to her, summoned various healing potions and ointments out of the bag's depths, and got to work fixing herself.

 


 

Inside Glory's mansion, it was carnage.

Slayers swarmed over Glory like ants, slashing at her with claws and fangs.

But no matter how many Slayers swarmed over her, Glory was able to throw them off: sending Slayers flying everywhere, up to the ornately carved ceilings, crashing into the walls, leaving claw marks on the floor as they spun and scrabbled for purchase on the smooth marble, desperately coming back to slash at her again and again.

Yet no matter how hard they came at her, not one of the Slayers seemed to be making a dent on the Hell goddess.

Even Buffy's scythe seemed unable to penetrate deep enough to leave anything except a shallow flesh wound.

"Had enough girls?" Glory laughed and panted.

Simone bent over, hands on her knees, every muscle complaining. "Fuck you."

"Good. Because now it's my turn."

And with that, Glory shook herself completely free of the Slayers.

 


 

Outside Glory's mansion, Spike and Dawn sat in the last of the Slayers' vans, turning the key in the ignition for the umpteenth time.

The engine stuttered hopefully, then shook and died.

"Maybe it's the battery." Dawn said.

"Bloody hell!" Spike muttered. "Bloody, buggering, bollocks!"

"Try one more time!" Dawn pleaded.

"It's no bloody use!" Spike thumped the steering wheel in frustration. "None of them will start!"

Spike and Dawn had tried every single vehicle the Slayers had driven to Glory's, and for some reason not a single one of them would start – not even when Spike sparked the wires together in a vain attempt to hotwire it.

"Dammit!" Spike groaned and rested his forehead on the steering wheel.

"Why won't they start?" Dawn looked hopelessly around. "It's as if there's some weird mojo on them."

Spike lifted his head. "It's not 'as if' pet. It's exactly because there's some weird mojo on them!"

"But who would… uh," Dawn's eyes widened as she peered through the windscreen. "Spike."

Spike looked.

Dawn grabbed Spike's hand, her eyes wide and fearful. "Spike!"

"Get down."

Spike shoved her head down below the level of the dashboard, squeezing himself down as well.

"Spike, he's a vampire again! Angel's a vampire again!"

"Shhh," Spike warned. "Don't let them see you!"

 


 

The walls were reverberating around the throneroom, the rich red velvet drapes sliding off the great black granite plinths to pile onto the polished floor.

The Slayers halted in their attack on Glory, as the foundations of the Mansion rippled under their feet.

"From that side." Buffy shouted, pointing. "Something's –"

But she never got to finish, because there was a flash of blinding light and an intense wave of heat, and the entire northern wall of Glory's throne room collapsed.

Buffy blinked, her vision going strange colours.

In the midst of the falling pieces of marble, floated Barty Crouch Jr.

"Oh, shit." Buffy whispered, her eyes wide.

"Who the hell is that?" Simone cried.

Buffy ignored Simone, squared her shoulders and started to walk towards him with authority.

Black eyes settled on her.

"Barty –" Buffy tried her most commanding voice. "Barty, what's happened –?"

A wave of intense white slammed outwards from him, obliterating dozens of Slayers into fine clouds of dust.

Buffy barely managed to take shelter behind a black marble pillar, as several screams – suddenly cut off – echoed throughout the throneroom, and a bitter smell, like burnt hair, filled her nostrils.

The intense white ceased.

The throneroom was silent.

Buffy risked a look around the pillar.

The entire army of Slayers had been demolished.

The only two people left standing in the throne room were Barty Crouch Jr – and Glory.

Barty floated a foot above the floor, his hair moving strangely as though in an invisible breeze.

Glory stood slowly from where she'd fallen before her throne, almost completely naked, the scraps of her singed red dress barely covering her, deep bloody gashes sustained from the battle littering her shoulders, neck, collarbone and stomach.

The entire black marble floor was covered in a fine white dust, bleached by the intensity of Barty's rage.

"Well." Glory glanced around at the empty throne room. "Huh. That was actually kinda impressive, for a mortal. Guess I should thank you…"

"Stop."

Barty flicked his hand, and Glory stopped speaking.

Barty drifted closer, eyes pitch black as he regarded the hell goddess. "Do you really think I came here to save you?"

Glory tried to move but she was stuck to the floor.

"Any last words?" he said carelessly, flicking his hand once more.

Glory laughed bitterly as Barty returned her voice to her. "What are you going to do? Even your strongest magic can't kill me. You just gonna hold me here till I die?"

"No, no, no…" Lilted a deep voice behind her. "He's just holding you…for me."

"Who are –?"

Glory tried to turn her head to look, but she was too late.

The vampire that was formerly the human Liam O'Connor sprang on Glory.

Wrapping his arms about her shoulders and latching onto a wound across her collarbone, he began to draw her blood into his mouth in long pulls. She flailed at him, but he was draining her fast. She sank to her knees as he settled more comfortably around her, happily slurping.

Barty watched, his face a perfectly blank mask.

At last, the Hell goddess pitched forward, lifeless.

The vampire stood.

Barty only nodded slightly, before apparating away.

The vampire closed his eyes and took a deep breath, lifting his arms out like he was about to burst into song.

"Mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm!" He sighed happily. "Now that's more like it!"

He opened his eyes and surveyed the empty throne room around him.

Dust lifted and swirled mournfully about his feet.

"Oops. Looks like it could've been a helluva party."

He kicked at the dust, the corners of his mouth lifting in childlike delight as the remains of the Slayers curled up into the air before delicately settling on his shoes.

He laughed as he slid a smooth dance step in the dust, leaving streaks through the dust covered black marble floor.

Buffy knew that laugh.

It was a laugh that even now still haunted her dreams, especially on her loneliest nights.

"Angeles." She whispered aloud.

The vampire turned its head and spied Buffy, half out from her hiding place behind the pillar.

He grinned. "Oh good, leftovers."

 


 

Spike and Dawn had got out of the van, and were staring at the huge gaping hole where a mansion wall used to be.

"Bloody..." Spike gaped.

"...hell." Dawn finished.

Barty apparated in front of them.

His eyes met theirs, twin pools of dull black water.

"Spike." Barty said, almost carelessly, before his eyes slid towards Dawn. "And the key. "

His tongue flicked out, like a snake's, tapping the corner of his mouth as he gazed dully at them. "I suppose now I get to kill you."

 


 

Glory's blood dribbled out the corner of the vampire's mouth unheeded as he began to walk casually towards the blonde Slayer.

"Stay away!" Buffy tried her best to be threatening as she backed away from behind the pillar.

"Wait a minute… I remember you…" The vampire slowed. "Ah yes… Buffy! You're the little bitch who made Angeles lose his soul." He laughed. "You know, he still whines about the whole thing."

"Don't come any closer," she warned him. "We've put your soul in you before, we can do it again."

"We?" He looked around at the drifting white dust, his face dissolving back to its human mask as he did. "Well, firstly, let me just say… no. Threatening me with a soul? Mmm, super scary, but somehow I just don't believe you. And by the way, the whole –" He waved an arm towards her, "– thing you got going there, the hair, the eyes, the clothes… very late 90s." He started to walk towards her again. "But I have to correct you." He grinned, showing his white fangs. "I'm not Angeles."

Buffy stared. "What?"

He smiled. "When Nisha had the bright idea to kill and sire dear Liam, she really should've put a bit more thought into what she was doing… because the actual turning of a human into a vampire has more metaphysics involved than you'd give it credit for."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, let's just say that a very different demon has fused with Liam this time."

 


 

Spike took no chances.

He threw himself at Barty, aiming several swift punches to Barty's mouth in an effort to stop him from uttering a single spell.

Barty threw Spike back with a wordless gesture.

Spike rolled several times on the ground but was up and on his feet again and charging back towards him.

Barty merely caused Dawn to skid across the ground into his arms, and held her fast between them.

Spike stopped.

"One more step, and I'll make her insides rain down on your head." Barty said quietly.

 


 

Buffy's eyes narrowed at the vampire in front of her. "You're lying."

"Oh no, Liam and I are pretty much on the same page this time around." He smiled. "Full and complete combined consciousness. Musta been the way I was sired." His eyes lit up with humour as he winked at her. "What was in Nisha's blood, by the way? Because it was six kinds of ewwww."

"It's your blood."

He looked at her quizzically. "I have a vague recollection that in L.A. you asked me to sire you."

"You refused. Remember?"

"Well, understandably." He looked back at Buffy, his eyes full of dark amusement. "Why did you even ask?"

"I wasn't going to risk losing to Glory." Buffy's face was hard. "So I took precautions."

He rolled his tongue around his mouth. "Yes, I remember now… you stole my blood. Liam didn't forgive you for a long time over that."

Buffy only laughed coldly. "You were unconscious. I took some of your blood, and then I mixed it with that Turok-Han's. The one we captured. I kept it with me til the end."

"The Turok-Han?" The vampire grinned. "How very naughty of you…"

 


 

Barty lifted his hands up, dark green sparks already flaring from his fingertips.

"It's fitting, you know." His face was pale and drawn. "That it ends this way."

"What," Spike sneered. "You mean, fitting that you're all alone? Frenchie not with you?"

Barty looked at Spike from over Dawn's shoulder, his face expressionless.

"Couldn't talk yer girlfriend into comin', huh?" Spike pushed himself forward. "She dump you?"

"Spike, stop." Dawn said suddenly.

"Shame." Spike pretended not to hear Dawn. "She was alright, for a Slayer. Guess you must've blown it with her."

Barty's eyes were liquid black.

"Or was it you what dumped her?"

"Spike." Dawn gulped.

"Too bad. Any fool could see she had the hots fer yer. Wouldn't even look twice at anyone else. Not even Angel. Though it beats me what she saw in you."

Barty threw Dawn roughly to the side.

"What would you know?" he hissed.

 


 

Buffy lifted her chin. "I made myself what I had to be. To make sure that if I died, I would still be able to come back one day and be strong enough to finish Glory."

"No wonder your sister doesn't wanna talk to you anymore."

"Leave my sister out of this!"

"Buffy, Buffy, Buffy… you know how Dawnie feels about being abandoned…"

"I did what I had to."

"Oh, please. Come on. Own your choices, Buffy. You did what you wanted to. You wanted to use the blood of a master vampire and a prehistoric monster to turn yourself... you wanted to sire your own little Slayer army… you wanted to kill Glory so much you were willing to leave Elly and Liam all alone with Nisha… big mistake, that." The vampire shook his head and clicked his tongue. "You know Liam was very fond of Elly?"

Buffy swallowed. "She knew the cost. She knew no matter what we did, she knew it might mean she'd die. She knew that."

"Did she." The vampire was not smiling anymore. "Unfortunately, I agree with Liam about Elly completely... and we are not happy with you."

"But, if you're not Angeles, then who are you?"

"Hmmm." The vampire started to come towards her again. "We hadn't thought about a name yet. I mean, my demon name is pretty hard to pronounce. Even for other demons." He cocked his head sideways to look at her. "But you know, I've never really cared much about names." He shrugged. "Angel's a good a name as any."

"Not very creative." Buffy tried desperately to keep him talking.

"Ha! You're right." He grinned. "What about Giles?"

Buffy glared.

"Xander?"

"Fuck you."

"But you know, it shouldn't matter what my name is. You should just be grateful it's me and not one of the others. I mean, the demon who called himself Angeles was an absolute c-"

Buffy raised a fist up, and tried to punch him in the face.

He didn't even flinch.

Panicking, Buffy tried again.

Still nothing.

"Uh oh," he smiled. "Either you're outta juice, or else I'm just immune to your charms."

The soft snick of someone sliding an arrow into a crossbow from across the throne room made him pause again. Breathing in deeply through his nose, he smiled and stood.

"Hermione."

 


 

Spike charged at him.

Barty stopped him with a casual flipendo jinx, sending him falling involuntarily onto his back.

Dawn cried out, rushing to Spike's side.

Barty's tongue flicked out as he looked down at them.

"I can do anything I want to you." Barty said. "I can make you bark like a dog. I can make you choke yourself to death. I can make you walk out into the sunrise, Spike, singing while you burn." His voice grew softer. "Or I can make you both hurt every person you care about. Make you forget who you are."

His black eyes scanned their faces.

"But I won't." He turned with an empty look back towards the mansion. "Because none of it matters anymore... it's too late now."

Spike didn't take his eyes off of Barty as Dawn slowly helped him to his feet.

He stayed, back turned to them, shoulders hunched, hands stiff at his sides.

They both hesitated, unsure he wouldn't turn and attack in the next moment.

"You're the key." Barty spoke so quietly, it was almost hard to hear him. "Send me back home, for all I care..."

A small breath escaped Barty. And then the faintest of sobs.

Dawn made a move towards him.

"No," warned Spike, shooting an arm out to stop her.

"It's alright." Dawn told him. "Go help Buffy. I got this."

Spike scowled. "You sure? Cos it's no problem for me to - "

"It's alright, Spike." Dawn firmly put Spike's arm away. "I'll be fine."

 


 

Hermione stood unsteadily, her arms trembling to hold the crossbow as she aimed it at him.

"Best be careful with that, darling. Wouldn't wanna miss now, would you?"

"I don't mean to." She closed one eye and squinted.

"How adorable. You seeing this Buffy? Such a hero - standing up against the Big Bad Vampire, even though she's too - "

With a slight ping, the arrow was loosed.

It struck him straight in the heart.

Surpised, he looked at the arrow in his chest and then up at Hermione - who looked as surprised as him.

"Well, ow." He looked back down at the arrow sticking out of his chest. "That was real harsh."

Slowly he slid it out.

Hermione stared.

"But sorry, darling, I guess you must've missed the prequel with Nisha." He held up the bloody arrow and examined it. "We really are unkillable."

He held the arrow between his index finger and thumb.

"Well, eenie, meenie, minie... which one of you bitches wants to go first?"

Hermione looked at the terrified, bleeding Slayer on the floor, then back at the vampire.

"I'll take you."

His face lit with a warm smile.

"That's the spirit!"

Then he threw the arrow back at Hermione with such speed and power, her shield barely thwarted its course.

The arrow pierced her right lung, throwing her backwards from the force of impact.

"You stay there a little while, Hermione." The vampire smiled. "I'll be right with you." He turned back to Buffy. "Just as soon as I've taken care of this one."


Spike hurtled towards the broken wall, his gaze firmly fixed on Buffy as Angel leant over her.

But he wasn't runnning fast enough.

He saw Angel reach down and grab her by her hair.

Spike tried to run faster.

He saw Buffy struggling.

Spike wasn't going to get there in time.

He saw Angel's face morphing, and his fangs bearing down, as he jerked Buffy's head back to expose her neck.

Spike panicked.

Buffy was going to die!

Magenta lines started to waver at the edge of his vision.

Blue sparks began to shoot into the air about him as he ran.

That familar feeling of being squeezed settled around him, even as he fought against it.

"Not now, you bastard!"

But it was already too late.

His throat was ice cold, his vision was going dark, and he was being compressed down into himself, until he was no bigger than the size of his fist, the size of his heart...

Chapter Text

It was all so wearingly familiar.

Spike had been here before, too many times.

But this time, he wasn’t living it.

He was watching it.

He was an outsider, watching his own life like it had been captured on film, an unedited reel yet to be cut down into a neat little one hour timeslot.

There was the tower.

There were the knot of slack-jawed humans, crowding around its base.

There was Dawn, bound and helpless at the very edge of the gangplank at its top.

He watched as the small group of familiar-looking people began to fight against the brainless crowd, obviously trying to get through to rescue Dawn.

And him, fighting in the thick of it.

“Can’t anybody just tell me what the hell is going on?” he sighed.

“Your death.” A soft voice answered him. “Most people only get one death… you, on the other hand, seem to have had several.”

As the soft voice sank into his brain, he felt for the first time in days that the persistent grey haze that had clung to his memories was lifting.

Pieces of his memories that had been missing slowly began to click into place as he kept watching.

“You are currently seeing the death that acted as a catalyst for the last five years… and gave birth to a whole different future.”

He saw himself, the white-blonde figure in a black leather duster, leap up the stairs of the tower. He watched as he ran, three steps at a time, rushing to save Dawn at the top of the tower.

At the base of the tower, Buffy and Glory fought; while at the very top of the tower, Doc – Spike now remembered the man was called Doc – checked his pocket watch.

“Well, it’s just about that time.” He held up a knife.

Dawn screamed.

The Spike in the vision was still too far away.

Spike watched as the Doc approached Dawn.

“Come on, bloody come on!” He muttered to himself, but he already knew it had been too late.

Dawn tried to kick the demon back as he arced the blade at her. The Doc turned the knife’s tip down mid swing. Crying out in pain she jerked her leg back, the dress fell apart as he sliced deeply across the top of her thigh. She wrenched futilely at her bonds, and tried to kick out at him again with her other leg. He smacked her hard across the face with his free hand, stunning her just long enough to slice a diagonal arc down her chest.

“Stay still, girl,” he chided her.

Dawn sobbed as blood seeped through her dress, dribbling down to her feet.

Gripping her hard by her shoulder, he drew the knife carefully down her arm. “Shallow cuts, shallow cuts…let the blood flow free…”

The blood dripped into the air, where it sparked, electrified and formed a portal.

“Too late.” Spike whispered to himself. “I was too late.”

“You were.”

Spike finally, slowly, turned.

The woman was transcendental. Her blonde hair shimmered and stirred as though in a gentle breeze. The sweet-smelling flowers gracing her like a crown pulsed with power and life. When she turned to meet his eyes, he had the awful sensation of being twisted and reordered, as if she were compressing every part of him into a Spike-sized Rubik’s cube just by looking at him.

“You’ve caused Hades and I a lot of trouble, Spike.”

She looked almost wry; though on her, the expression was an iridescent cadence of beauty rippling outwards, a mix of sweet fragrances and perfectly harmonised music.

“Not to mention an entire pantheon of gods and goddesses he tore through in a rage looking for me.”

“Uh….” Spike said, staring stupidly.

“But then,” she smiled, as though he’d actually strung intelligent words together in a sentence, “There were several ways this could’ve gone.”

She turned back to the vision before them. “These particular few minutes are one of those… how should I say it? Rare time sequences. The ones that cannot be pinned down in the same exact order every time. They have their own whimsical nature.”

“Who are you?”

She frowned, and Spike felt like a spring storm was sweeping rapidly across lush green hills towards him. “Have I not introduced myself yet?”

He shook his head mutely.

She reached up a gentle hand and brushed his temple.

A thin shard of ice drilled into his brain, a hundred leathery wings beat the air about them, and the fragrance of a thousand flowers made his eyes water. Her names filled his head; hundreds of names, thousands of names, names she was called across countless worlds…

Stop,” he pleaded.

She did.

He took a grateful breath, glad his mind was clear once more.

“Now, you tell me, vampire, who I am.”

“You’re…” He picked the one name out of all of them that seemed the most familiar. “Persephone.”

As he said it, she changed.

Her blonde hair glowed like molten gold, the heat grazing his face. The flowers exploded into living jewels that trickled through the liquid gold, and her eyes fired into an impossible blue.

It was like trying to look into the heart of a newly born star.

“Yes.” She agreed. “Persephone.”

“Uh… “ Spike turned his stinging eyes away and blinking several times, “Well, this is nice an’ all, but… would you mind tellin’ me what’s going on? I mean… did I fall into the future?”

“Keep watching,” she suggested, indicating the scene before them.

Spike had reached the top, and was walking towards the Doc.

“Doesn’t a fellow stay dead when you kill ‘im?” Vision-Spike quipped.

Spike looked away, unwilling to relive his failure. He’d already failed enough times already, he didn’t want to see it again. But Persephone continued to watch with avid interest.

Spike heard himself cry out in pain, and he remembered that Doc had stabbed him with the same knife that he’d cut Dawn with.

Persephone breathed out. “There.” She turned her blue eyes towards him. “Don’t you see?”

He felt himself compelled to look.

Persephone gestured gracefully towards the action unfolding before them, this time re-playing in slow motion. “Dawn’s blood opened portals to all realities.”

The knife stuck through his back, Doc sneered in vision-Spike’s ear: “I don’t smell a soul anywhere on you… why do you even care?”

She froze the vision, just as vision-Spike cast one last long look at Dawn, his face a conflicting mix of slow realisation, despair and determination.

“Dawn’s blood was on the knife.”

In the scene before them, Spike shoved the Doc backwards.

He turned, the knife still protruding from his back… and then deliberately leapt off the tower.

“You have got to be bloody kiddin’ me.”

Spike stared, dumbfounded, at the black-clad figure gracelessly frozen in mid-air over electric ripples of energy. The light from the portals in the vision were so bright he couldn’t even make out the face – though he imagined if he could, he would have seen only absolute terror.

“You took a calculated risk.” Persephone continued. “The very first time you tried to save Dawn, you deliberately sacrificed yourself, hoping that as you fell, Dawn’s blood inside you would close the portal. You chose to carry that blood, in your wound and on the knife, through Glory’s portal.”

“You mean, I really did off myself like a soddin’ idiot?” Spike was revolted. “Just to save the world?”

“I do believe you had – other motivations.” She smiled slightly. “But that first time, you were supposed to have failed. The Fates decreed that you were to completely miss the portal and cease to exist as a result of your fall. Trust me, as the goddess your actions directly affected, I felt… obliged to consult them over your original fate.”

“Oh, well, so terribly sorry.” Spike scowled.

“It wasn’t you. Glory’s portal repositioned itself as you fell.” Persephone shook her head. “I have lived as a goddess for millennia, and I have never seen such a thing happen before. It seems as though the portal wanted to save you.”

“How’d it do that? I mean, it’s just a hole, innit? It’s not alive.”

Persephone looked almost witheringly at him. “Of course it’s alive. It may not be sentient in the way you are sentient, but it is certainly aware.”

“So… has that got anything to do with why I keep – you know, glitching through time?”

“In essence, yes. You didn’t just close the portal. You absorbed it. Or it absorbed you.” She looked through him again in that same disconcerting way that made him feel like he was being compressed into a tiny, tiny cube. “Its energy fused with you. That is why you have the power to travel in time or space as you wish. Though up until now, you have not really tried to take control of your power.”

Spike paused as everything she said sunk in. “So... I have superpowers? Neat.”

Persephone was stern. “Every time you choose to use your powers, the scales are tipped. The multiverse will seek to re-balance the scales with an equal and corresponding reaction.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Every time you’ve used your powers, a doorway opened in a parallel reality, and took living creatures from that world that it had no right to.”

“So…” Spike slowly worked it out. “Frenchie, and the witch… they’re here because of what I did?”

“Yes.” Persephone looked even sterner. “And not just them. There have been others too.”

“But how can that be? They came here years ago!”

“There is no linear consequence for your ability to travel through time and space. Past, present, future: time is not, nor ever has been, linear. The relationship between portals and time are notoriously unpredictable. That has been the cost of what you have done. You may have been trying to save Dawn, but since then you have directly fractured the lives of many others. Using your powers has had dire consequences.”

“So I have all these powers and I’m not allowed to use them?” He made a scoffing noise. “What’s the point of that?”

Persephone considered his question for a long moment. “Simple. Do you want to stay alive?”

“Well, yeah… as alive as a vamp can be.”

“And do you want your universe to collapse?”

“No.”

“Then don’t use them. If your instinct to continue existing is greater than your desire for power, you’ll leave them alone. Or else every time you use them the boundaries between realities will weaken. The walls will grow thinner. One day, your world as you know it will no longer exist. Neither will mine. Neither will the others.”

“How is that possible?”

“You are a portal Spike. Until you go back to your own world, your own place and time, you are technically an open portal. For all intents and purposes, that is what the multiverse recognises you as. The more you’ve travelled through time, the more other worlds began to be heavily entangled with this one. Because of you.”

“So… you’re here to fix it, yeah?”

“Not me. You.”

“How the hell do I fix it?”

“Just do one thing: choose how the portals close, so that your reality can separate from the others and continue on its own timeline, as it was supposed to.”

“But what about the others?” He cleared his throat, looking embarrassed. “I mean, not that I care… but what about the other ... realities?”

Persephone grew contemplative. “They are no longer your concern.”

“But you’re a goddess. Can’t you just, I dunno, wave your hand and make everything right?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“The spilling of Dawn’s blood on the tower must and will happen. It is one of many events that is anchoring the timeline of your reality.”

“Sounds like bullshit to me.” He couldn’t help the bitter sarcasm. “What’s the use of being a goddess or having powers if you can’t fix things?”

Her eyes turned bright and cold.

“You speak like an ignorant child.” She swiped at the air, and the scene before them disappeared. “Being a goddess, a real one, requires balancing the needs of the world versus the stability of time. Certain events must and should happen, and we cannot interfere with them. No matter how much we may wish to. Have you ever seen what happens to a world when the anchors that hold time in place are removed? I have.” Her voice became as dark and dry as the desert wind at night. “Imagine a perpetual state of feeling every experience you have ever had, all at once. Birth, death, rot, decay, orgasm, labour pains, organ failure, all that you cannot even imagine – without linear progression, without pause, without escape.”

Spike hissed in pain and horror as the images of what she described filled his brain.

“And well you should shudder.” She turned away from him. “Being a goddess requires sacrifice. It requires putting aside your personal sorrows for others.”

Her sadness scented the air, vanilla and bergamot and the earth after rain, and Spike felt as if someone had placed the aching weight of the earth on his chest.

“It will require a sacrifice to close the portals – but unfortunately, it can’t be your sacrifice. That was the mistake you made, the first time you tried to give up your own existence to save the world.”

Spike shook his head. “You’re mad if you think I’m gonna throw Nibblet to her death.”

She jerked her head impatiently. “She is not the only one.”

“What?”

“She is not the only one whose blood can close the portals.”

Spike stared. “You don’t mean…”

“Her sister.”

“No.”

“Those are the choices. Dawn or Buffy.”

“Neither.”

“Would it help to see what the future will be if Dawn is the one to die?”

Persephone gestured in the air, and several scenes began to flash past.

It looked exactly like the future he’d just left, where the Slayers ruled with Glory – only far worse. Instead of Glory, they worshipped Buffy. Huge moving images of Buffy projected above skyscrapers. Humans forced to strip and wear collars being loaded into trucks. Slayers killing random people they passed in the street, just because they felt like it. Humans turned into vampires and then forced to serve in brothels.

Then the scene changed.

The penthouse atop a tall skyscraper. A crowd of Slayers cheering while two female vampires fought to the death on a dance floor. Money changed hands as one of them dusted. And, enthroned over all, a petite blonde sprawled on a chair, the guest of honour at her own party. Wrapped around her right hand a chain, leashing a naked white-blonde vampire who knelt at her feet.

“Piss off.” Spike gaped in shock.

But Persephone brought the scene even closer.

It was definitely Buffy, mock-yawning as she talked to a woman in a cream velvet dress.

“... so bored.” Buffy was saying. She jerked on the chain. “Pet!” Her eyes were vicious as they rested on the kneeling Spike. “Go fight.”

Spike watched in disbelief as he was released. Buffy kicked him hard, sending him sprawling towards the dance floor where the victor of the previous match stood.

The other version of him lay unmoving on the floor, staring up at the ceiling. His ribs showed through bruised skin, and the onlookers catcalled his nudity, but he didn’t seem too care. His eyes were far away.

Spike rubbed his face. “How…?”

“Buffy changes.” Persephone explained softly. “Over time, a series of events and decisions slowly erode whatever humanity she has left after the death of her sister. And this is the result.”

Spike stared at the other Buffy in the nightmare future.

“My husband and I have many worlds under our rule,” Persephone continued calmly, “This future you gave birth to is wounded – I confess, I am growing somewhat protective of it. But you can choose a better future.”

Spike swallowed and closed his eyes against the particularly vivid image of the other version of Buffy, now searching for a new pet, inspecting the ‘merchandise’ in a vampire brothel. She held a vampire by the jaw with one hand, and with her other was pulling its eye out slowly. Spike watched as she dropped it to the floor, before squishing it under her boot to the cheers of several other Slayers.

He turned away, unable to stomach it anymore.

Persephone flicked her hands at the scene again. “Want to see the alternative?”

Spike almost didn’t want to, but was once again compelled.

Buffy was dead, her broken body at the base of the tower.

He was crying pathetically in the shadows as the rising sun streamed over her golden hair.

Next, Spike was holding Dawn at the funeral.

Then he and Dawn watching TV, numbly holding hands while the images flickered in front of them.

Then Dawn was crying and trying to cut herself in the bathroom. Spike burst in on her and flung the knife away. Dawn collapsed in his arms, crying.

In the next scene, Dawn was hitch hiking along a road, tearstained face resolute. Behind her, a black De Soto pulled up. The door opens. She hesitates, then gets in.

Days, weeks whir by: Dawn starts to smile a little. Spike looks happy to be taking care of her. School starts up again. Spike is hanging a framed certificate while she pretends to complain about it ‘not being straight’. He says something, and she actually laughs.

The scene freezes on Dawn's smiling face.

“I’m afraid that’s all I can show you for now.” Persephone shrugs her slim shoulders. “Quite a bit different, isn’t it?”

Spike rubs his face, and stared again at the scene. So domestic. So sick-making. So... strangely comforting.

“But…” He looks again at Dawn’s face. “Buffy can’t die…”

“Dawn, then.”

No!”

“The portals will open. One of them has to close it.” She regarded him speculatively. “I am content to allow you to choose how your mess is cleaned up, but I warn you, if you refuse to choose, I will do so for you.”

Spike grasped at straws. “Is there – is there really no one else?”

“No. You know that. Not even you can take their place. Any other will only have more consequences for the other worlds. And I think this world has suffered quite enough, don’t you?”

Spike stared again.

Everything in him screamed against the choice he knew he should make.

“I can’t…” he whispered. “I can’t…”

Persephone nodded.

“Very well.”

She reached out a hand and touched Spike’s chest.

“Goodbye, Spike.”

Black lines started to waver at the edge of Spike’s vision.

“No –” Spike started to say. “Don't! Wait! I need more – ”

But Persephone had already disappeared into the dark, and he felt the awfully familiar squeezing suffocation pressing down on him as he started to hurtle backwards through time.

 

Chapter Text

Sunnydale Friday 25th May, 2001

The funeral was a small affair.

After much debate, Giles had finally relented and allowed for the service to start at sunset, ‘In view of certain individuals wanting to attend’.

Xander sat in the front row and adjusted his tie for the tenth time.

Willlow sat next to him and stared at the coffin, her mind miles away.

Giles sat by himself.

It was only a minute after sunset when a voice sounded near Willow and Xander, startling them both out of their separate reveries.

“Where is she?” Angel asked.

“Oh, um,” Willow stuttered. “She – she didn’t wanna come out of her room.”

He cast a critical eye over them both. “I think it’ll be worse if she doesn’t come. She’ll regret it later.”

“Spike’s there.” Willow said defensively.

“Spike?!”

“Yeah. Spike was the only one she’d let in to talk to her.” Xander added.

“He said he’d talk to her, see if he could get her to change her mind.” Willow’s gaze drifted back to the coffin.

Angel scowled. “Somehow I don’t think Spike’s the best counsellor at a time like this.”

“Well, he’s all we got.” She answered.

Angel heaved a sigh.

For the first time, he let his own gaze rest on the coffin at the front.

It was adrift in flowers, like a ship sailing on a sea of white and green.

For a moment, he could’ve sworn he heard a soft voice, making the flowers ripple around the casket like a wave… but it was only the breeze from the doors as the minister came in to start the service.

Willow stared at the flowers too.

A sudden idea popped into her head.

She sat up straighter, as the idea began to take root in her mind.

Why had she never thought of it before?

She was a powerful witch. Surely there’d be a way… her eyes opened even wider in excitement. As soon as I get home, she promised herself, I’ll do some research. But just a little. Nothing too serious. Just enough to see…

Angel reluctantly sat down next to her, as the minister took his place at the front, clearing his throat to address the small crowd.

“O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of your servant, Buffy Ann Summers, and grant her entrance into the land of light and joy…”

 


 

 

Hogwarts – sometime after midnight on the eve of the Yuletide Ball – 1994

A young girl was sobbing alone on the steps in a great castle, while a scarred man with a magical eye leant heavily on his good leg and awkwardly attempted to pat her on the shoulder.

The next second, an electric white flash engulfed them.

And then the young girl was sitting unclothed on the steps, a strange, faraway look in her eye; while in front of her, in place of the one-legged scarred man, was an equally unclothed young wizard with an unruly mop of hair. For a brief instant, they met eachother’s gaze.

“You’re…” the young girl’s voice faded as she frowned. "... naked."

Barty Crouch Jr straightened, unembarrassed by his naked state, and suddenly held his hand out to her.

“I’m going back.” Barty said simply. “Coming?”

A thousand questions perched on Hermione’s tongue, but it was a vaguely contemplative statement that slipped out first.

“You know, I always thought if I ever came back I’d lose all my memories again…”

She looked about at the now-alien walls of Hogwarts, walls she hadn’t seen for years. Walls she never thought she’d see again… and now that she was back, she realised she had no desire to stay. Perhaps only long enough to see her parents, but then...

Barty jerked his hand impatiently. “Well?”

Hermione stood.

“Harry can look after himself.” She decided. “He’ll figure out how to defeat Voldemort.”

“They can both go sodomise themselves with a rotten carrot for all I care.” Barty snapped. “I have places to be.”

Hermione resolutely nodded her agreement. “Dawn needs me.”

And she put her hand in his.

 


 

Somewhere in (formerly known as) Bordeaux, France   –   Earth 2   –   5th August, 2839

A warrior stood alone against a dragon in a desolate swampland.

As she braced herself for its attack, a crackling black portal engulfed them.

The dragon disappeared.

The warrior stood, unclothed and weaponless, alone in the swamp, her face in a gentle reverie.

She shivered, and looked about her, frowning as though for a moment, she couldn’t remember where she was or how she’d come to be there.

She turned towards the distant village, smoke curling up into the air in the dusk.

“C'est étrange, il me manque déjà." She murmured to herself. “Parce que tu l'aimes, imbécile. Je dois lui dire.”

And she began to resolutely march, completely unembarrassed by her naked state, on a mission to find the person who could help her get back.

 


 

Hades raised a hand to his wife’s cheek.

“You are too generous by half,” he murmured, pressing his lips to the top of her head.

She smiled and took his face between her own hands, standing up on tip toe to kiss him soundly. “You know I couldn’t help myself.”

“No, you couldn’t.”

“I do like a happy ending.”

“Well, it’s not entirely happy yet.”

“No. Not yet.” Persephone was radiant. “But the witch is powerful. And naïve. She’ll take matters into her own hands.”

“Of course, you had to give her a little nudge first.”

“Of course,” Persephone turned her attention to the multiple scenes rapidly playing out in front of her, “It was the best path for their world, out of so many other destructive ones.”

“Hmmm.” Hades was non-committal. “It is a difficult world, that one. So unstable.”

“Well, we’ll leave it to the ones in charge. They can sort it out.” She waved towards the new scene in front of them. “I’ve decided what I want for my honeymoon present.”

“Well you are in luck.” Hades pressed another kiss to her cheek, and held her against his chest. “Not even my brother will dare to interfere with us, not after all the headaches I’ve given him. So you can have whatever you want, darling.”

“Good.” Persephone laughed. “Because I have plans for them.”

They both watched as Barty and Hermione apparated away from Hogwarts.

“So much power,” Hades said appreciatively, as the scene changed to Elara marching naked through a swampland. “So much potential for chaos.”

“I knew you’d like them.” Persephone stroked her husband’s arm. “I’ve already consulted with the Fates.”

“Consulted?” Hades scoffed humorously. “You mean, threatened.”

“I learn from the best.”

He nuzzled his wife-to-be’s ear. “Hmmm.”

“And once he finds her again, this time he’ll be unstoppable…” Persephone grinned. “A little like us, hmm?”

“Oh?” Hades raised an eyebrow. “You think he’s like me?”

“Well…” Persephone leant her head back against her husband’s broad chest. “I confess I do see a little of you in him…”

“Should I be jealous?”

Persephone turned to him, her azure eyes sparkling with mischief. “Maybe you should be.”

“Impossible.” Hades growled. “I am unique. There is no one even remotely like me.”

“Well – perhaps you need to show me just how unique you are…”

Persephone giggled as he caught her up in his arms, and, kissing her passionately, carried her away.

 

THE END