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A study of the Whirlwind set to the song Take Me to Church by Hozier.


Ungodly from systematic alchemy on Vimeo.

An anonymous request that provided an interesting challenge to put Willow, Spike, and Wesley in a relationship set to Broken Social Scene's Sweetest Kill. Due to all the effects I had to use, the result could use some work that my computer wasn't up for.

Explosions in Heaven from systematic alchemy on Vimeo.

Buffy/Spike and Buffy/Angel a comparison set to Florence and the Machine's Blinding.

Like a Girl from systematic alchemy on Vimeo.


I'll be good from systematic alchemy on Vimeo.

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Chapter Text

1. d4/e6 2. Knight f3/c5 3. e3/ Knight 64 4. Bishop d3/b6 5. O-O/ Bishop b7 6. Knight bd2/cd4

“By the time a player becomes a Grandmaster, almost all of his training time is dedicated to work on this first phase. The opening is the only phase that holds out the potential for true creativity and doing something entirely new.” - Garry Kasparov


With a wrinkled face Willow looked over the box she carried. “Have you noticed the fanatic paintball players lately?”

Buffy was helping Willow move her things into her dorm room by carrying all the boxes filled with books. “I thought they’d have stopped after the third death.”

“It’d be better if they didn’t insist on midnight games. They’ve lost almost a dozen to demons.” As Willow set her box down, she sighed at how much work it would take to get unpacked and settled. “That’s all my stuff. Let’s get your stuff into your room.”

“That’s okay. Parker, that cute guy we met this morning, offered to help. And who am I to refuse.”

“Well while you’re man snaring, I’ll unpack and then go watch over Oz. First night in the cage he built in that crypt. Someone’s got to make sure he stays put.” Willow opened a box. “Stop by if you make it out to patrol.”

“I’ll be there round one. Later.” Buffy walked off toward her own dorm room.


Eschewing his trademarks, Spike walked through Sunnydale, right past Xander without even a raised eyebrow. When it was all said and done, he’d show them they’d never win. Contrary to popular belief and a reputation he’s worked hard to put out there, Spike was often patient. He survived by knowing when to create a spectacle and when to blend in, when to attack, and when to make slow strategic moves.

Right now he had one goal, defeat all his enemies. Fortune would have it, most of them were in Sunnydale. He’d seen his worst defeats here, but that was before he had a gambit that worked more like the perfect ace. One more day and he could start his campaign full force.

When he walked into his current lair all his minions stopped what they were doing and looked to him. He had everything from vampires to Fyarls. Spike had even wrangled an Old One, though trapped in a human body, making him only slightly more powerful than a normal vampire.

“How’s the progress?” Spike asked Maloker.

“They have exceeded expectations and broke through the vault floor ten minutes ago.” The chartreuse half human Old One walked Spike down the tunnel.

“Good.”

 

“Before I allow you to obtain the Gem, I need you to live up to your end of the bargain. What’s the name of the witch?”

“The deal was that I’d give you her name when I’d succeeded in my goal. The Gem is a game piece I need to get there. My goal is to crush the government that’s been stealing demons and using them like a slave army, and the Slayer line. I’ll make sure you get your witch when we’ve done that.” Spike laughed at the cross look on Maloker’s face. “And for as long as I hold your leash, you’ll comply. Now see to the troops, make sure they’re ready by morning.”

Maloker turned and left without another word.


It was past one thirty in the morning when Buffy made it to the crypt, but as she closed in on it, she heard nothing. For a minute she thought maybe she’d gotten the wrong crypt, but the cage inside left no doubt. This was the right place, but the door to the cage was open and empty. Buffy combed over the crypt and found Willow’s travel mug cracked in the corner, and traces of blood on the drilled open cage door.

A scuffling noise halted Buffy. She couldn’t see anything, but Buffy knew something was there. A Slayer fast strike and her fist came into contact with what felt like a person’s face and the oomph sounded like a person too. Just as she found them again, someone attacked her from behind, and another from her left, the right, and then every direction.

One invisible attacker, sure no problem, two she’d still get it done, but Buffy couldn’t even tell how many there were. She had to work her way to the stairs and then she escaped.


In a basement room of Sunnydale General, a woman opened her eyes for the first time in months. With a wrench of her wrist, the link between the cuffs broke. Before the officers guarding her could respond, she’d grabbed the one’s gun.

“You,” she said to the other cop. “Gun, floor, and kicked here. Then strip.”

He complied and when she had his uniform in hand, she shot them both in the head.

“Guess I get to play bad cop.” Faith smirked as she left the hospital.


Willow woke up in a cell with all sides white tiles, except a large windowed wall. Her clothes were nowhere to be seen, and she tried to cover herself as men and women walked by the window. Some were in uniforms while others wore lab coats.

When one in a lab coat stopped in front of her cell to study her and take notes, she asked, “What’s going on? Where am I? Where’s Oz?”

She got no reply and the man in the coat just jotted down a few more things before walking out of her view.

The cell across from her was empty, and she couldn’t try to see anything else without exposing herself. She tried to use magic but found that only made her lightheaded with no results, so she screamed. No one came or even paid attention to her.

 

7. ed4/Bishop e7

“The shortcoming of hanging pawns is that they present a convenient target for attack. As the exchange of men proceeds, their potential strength lessens and during the endgame they turn out, as a rule, to be weak.

“The power of hanging pawns is based precisely in their mobility, in their ability to create acute situations instantly.” - Boris Spassky


“I don’t care about missing demons or secret government agencies! Willow and Oz are missing Giles. That’s what we need to be looking at right now!” Buffy didn’t care about anything else.

“I think they’re all related. And don’t forget that Oz is a demon. Even when he’s not in his wolf form, he still has heightened senses, and some extra strength. So if you care about Oz and Willow you’ll pay attention to what I have to say about the missing demons and witches.” Giles turned toward Xander when the boy cleared his throat.

“I’m listening. Tell me how we get Willow and Oz back.”

Buffy rolled her eyes and sat down dramatically. “Fine, let’s waste time and get them killed when we should track them.”

“For the last three months the demon community has been under attack not just by us, but by what from I can tell is a military organization I’d thought disbanded.”

“Military? Three months? The paintball freaks. It has to be.” Buffy didn’t wait to hear anything else, she rushed off to find one of them and force him or her to free Willow and Oz.

The phone rang as the door closed, and Giles answered, “Hello?”

“She’s awake.” The woman on the line said nothing more before hanging up.

“Oh dear lord.”

Xander asked. “Is Willow okay?”

“It’s Faith actually. She’s awake.” Giles sat down and stared into nothing trying to decide the best course of action.

“And her timing’s impeccable as always.” Xander groaned. “I want to help. Buffy needs to find Will, so we'll handle Faith.”

“The best we could hope to accomplish is locating and perhaps following her.”

“Then we’ll do that. I can’t sit here. I’ll just keep freaking out over Willow.” Xander put his jacket on and opened the door. Giles followed.


“The decision to research in Sunnydale was a smart one Professor.” The Colonel walked through the hall in the containment area, gleaning an idea of how vast their R&D could be here. In three months they’d already captured over two dozen different types of demons, and just as many witches and warlocks with varying power levels and specialties.

“I’m glad you think so.” Maggie stopped in front of the last cell containing a witch. “From the preliminary tests, Hostile 29 would be an excellent candidate for our splicing and utilization program.”

Colonel McNamara studied the back of the redhead as she lay facing the back wall. “It’s skinny. Are you sure?”

“I’m sure. Like many of the sub-terrestrials its capabilities belie its physical stature.”

“Is this the one found with a wolf?” McNamara asked.

“Yes, and it seems the two are protective of each other. That’ll work to our advantage.”

“Send it to surgery at once. No need to use anesthetic, Dr. Angleman, save it for the troops. We have to keep from acquisitioning too much. Don’t want the wrong eyes on us.”

Dr. Angleman said, “Yes, sir.” And then nodded for two guards to aid him in moving Hostile 29 to the pit.


The sun rising was a thing of beauty to Faith. She’d never stopped to watch one before, but sitting on Kingman’s Bluff, the stunning colors were undeniable. The sun now completely over the horizon, had Faith confused at the continuing feeling in her gut. She’d been relying on her instincts to know when vampires were close, but why would it still be acting up now? There was nowhere for a vampire to hide from the sun. She turned around and around until she saw the person sitting right on the edge of the cliff. Black t-shirt, brown hair, and the palest arms and neck she’d ever seen in the daytime.

She pulled the stake she made out of her stolen belt. Creeping up on the thing, he seemed oblivious to her advancements. When she staked him through the back, she’d expected him to either turn to dust or be a body she needed to toss off the cliff. Neither happened. The hole she’d made closed when she removed her stake.

“I have a proposition for you, Faith.” His voice slicked her insides with its muddled English accent.

“How’d you know my name?” She watched him stand up, and she nearly cried at the sight of those blue eyes over the sharpest cheekbones she’d ever seen.

“When a bloke returns to town, he likes to catch up on the local gossip, so he doesn’t feel out of place in conversations.” He ambled down the hill and when she hesitated, he sighed. “For as nice as this view is, it’s been a long time since I’ve been outside in the day, and I’d like to see more.”

Faith followed cause why not? “So how long’s it been? And what’s your name?”

“Hundred and nineteen years give or take. And the name’s Spike.”


Feeling anxious and like a failure, Buffy’s feet dragged her to Giles’s apartment. Not a single sign of the paintball freaks she’d been seeing for months. When she got there, the door was locked, and the lights were out. Knocking brought no one to the door, and Buffy sat in the courtyard, unable to go to her dorm with Willow in trouble.

“Miss?”

Her game must have been way off. She hadn’t heard the man coming. “Hi. I’m fine. Just waiting for my friend.”

“You should get inside. The freaks like the dark.” He was tall and sheepish while he told her what to do.

“I know, but trust me. I’m fine.” She tried to smile but she couldn’t help but notice his clothes. Paint splattered camo. “You like paintball?”

He laughed and looked at himself. “Guilty as charged.”

No time for gentleness or stealth, Buffy grabbed him and shoved him against the wall. “Where do you keep your prisoners? Tell me before the sun comes up and you might survive.”


Dr. Angleman closed the patient. Hostile 29 had passed out an hour ago from pain, but that didn’t make his job any easier. Between the biochemistry, the magic, and Hostile 5 putting up a fight, everything that could go wrong and still have the desired outcome, did. The face and body of the Hostile were covered in a spiderweb of scars, so its once pleasant countenance made him cringe now. This surgery was like shredding Starry Night in its degradation. If it weren’t for the knowledge that this witch would've surely destroyed them all, he’d regret being her surgeon.

 

"Without error there can be no brilliancy." - Emanuel Lasker


Sitting in the cast iron chair, Buffy kept the soldier boy in place with a foot to his neck. Any time he tried to get away, she depressed her foot enough to make him grunt. When she heard the telltale signs of people leaving for work, Buffy was forced to let him up.

"You so much as look at anyone for help, I'll let you go, but I'll hunt you down and kill you later, Riley Finn."She tossed his wallet at him.

"Yes, ma'am."

They sat staring at each other for over an hour. People came and went not paying them any mind. When Giles and Xander showed up, they said nothing as she led Riley away, and they said little as they walked with them. When they got to Buffy's destination, Xander asked, "Why here?"

"No one's using it." She shoved Riley to the ground. "Look familiar?"

"It's a crypt. With a cage for some reason." Riley shrugged. "So?"

"My friends were taken from here last night. I want them back. Now. And you will tell me how I can do that."

"Major Riley Finn 478-98-3654."

Buffy didn't punch him hard enough to break anything, but her temper was off the charts. "You will tell me what I want to know. And if you lie, I'll kill every midnight paintball player I can find until you tell me the truth."

"What kind of demon are you?"

"Funny, I'm not one. And neither were my friends. A locked up werewolf and a witch are people, you creep. Now tell me how to get them back!"

Giles cleared his throat before she could hit him again. "Beating him to death won't get you what you want. However, we'll hold him until he talks. Xander, get a sturdy chain and lock we can use on the cage."

"On it."

After Xander left, Giles said, "And if either Willow or Oz are harmed in any way, I'll help you torture Major Finn to death. There is something we need to talk about first, however."

"And what's that?" Buffy asked as she pushed Finn into the cell.

"Faith's awake."

"Maybe she's…"

"She killed the two officers standing guard over her."

"I so don't have time for her. I need to get Willow and Oz. Of course she'd wake up and still be evil at the least convenient time ever."


As midday hit, Faith knew she'd found a partner in Spike. His glee reminded her of Wilkins even if it was more of an ornery happiness. Ornery was what Wilkins would call her from time to time, and she felt it fit Spike to a T. The way his eyes lit up as he ordered breakfast and the grin as he killed the diner patrons were a kid at Christmas for sure. They were driving around in the cart the meter maid used and running over random things to see if the cart could perform. Everything was going great, up to and including where he ran the cart into a ditch.

As they got out, Faith asked, "So what's the big plan?"

"Take down the American government for starters." Spike laughed. "After I bleach my hair naturally."

"Naturally the hair comes first. And you don't start small do you? The big US of A is a tall order don't you think? I mean the corporations that run it wouldn't stop for an apocalypse, or they'd start one if they could get their heads out of their asses for five seconds."

"While I know ending stupidity seems like a hard target to hit, I have the best plan. Use their ignorance against them." Spike lit a smoke. "The morons picked the evil demon capital of the world for their research and development. They've got an underground bunker filled with demons they think they tamed. Some of those demons aren't even evil, but I can tell you one thing. Demons of any sort don't go for the controlled by wankers bit except for the ones without higher thought. So there's a ready made army, inside and waiting. I need to do some recon, as they call it, then I can move."

"Got any outside firepower?"

"I have an Old One, and every demon I've chatted up about this topic ready and willing to die for the cause if needed. Now I have a Slayer, which should help keep the blonde one off my back while we work." Spike tossed an arm around Faith's shoulders. "And you're human enough for what needs to happen next."

"And what's that?"

"I need you to join the commandos, be my inside man."

"Hey, I'm not your Private Benjamin."

"Not asking you to dress in camo or anything, love. Only asking you to spy and fight."

"Just so we're clear, I'm not your minion. We're partners or nothing. You let me in on every aspect of your plan, and I have the same amount of decision making power as you. We got a deal?" She stood arms akimbo.

He rolled his tongue in his mouth as he smirked. "Yeah, we got a deal."

Her hands ran up his chest before she kissed him forcefully. Spike pulled her body to his by grabbing her ass. Her moan was appreciative.


Walsh stood over Hostile 29, a gun to Hostile 28's head. "You do what I say or he dies. I believe the silver ammunition in this gun will do the job."

"Willow, no!"

One of the army guys hit Oz over the head and blood oozed from his scalp. "Shut up, demon."

With tears in her eyes, she said, "I'm sorry, but I can't let them hurt you."

"You're doing the right thing 29." Maggie's smile was frightening. "Now what I need you to do is magically infuse life into this dead flesh."

Willow's eyes widened. "That'll take months of research and some impossible to get ingredients."

Maggie shot Oz in the foot. "You have a week or I start amputating parts of your dog."

Oz didn't give Walsh the satisfaction of screaming, but his breathing got harsh and labored. "Willow, don't do this."

"Oz. I'm sorry."

 

"Can't stay, but I thought I would bring you something to help ward off sleep monsters." Xander handed Buffy whatever crazy name the largest sugar caffeine possible was called.

Buffy sipped the coffee. "Oh, mocha just the way I like it." Thoughts of Willow clouded her mind once again. "Willow's going to be so upset about missing classes."

Xander almost laughed as he walked up the stairs. "If they wanted to torture her they've already succeeded. I doubt she's thinking of anything else right now."

Riley shook his head. If their friends were Initiative captives then school was the last thing on this Willow's mind. But he let them find comfort while they could.


Maggie drank her black coffee as she watched the monitor for Hostile 29. With Hostile 5's special talents in her, Walsh expected this one would finally bridge the gap they'd been stuck on for years.

The Colonel passed by talking to the Lieutenant about the new arrivals. "They're both Majors, and one's a dame, but the word is that she's to be on the front line, fighting with the boys. The other is a seasoned clean cut soldier. Both of them have the highest clearance ratings I've seen short of having a bird on their collars, so we should get them up to date first thing."

The two men walked into the greeting room to see that the two new recruits knew each other and were talking amicably. "Never thought I'd see you in the military, geek boy."

"Well, I have more training than most, and I'll have you know that I love military movies and can quote Patton from memory."

Faith and Xander smirked at each other, silent communication that they would do everything they could to find out why the other was there. And they would do whatever they could to mess each other up. If it weren't for the camera, Faith would have killed him already.


Spike had his feet up on the table as he waited for the timer to go off, telling him that the bleach could be rinsed off. If he weren't a vampire in love with pain, he'd never have gotten past the second bleaching. It burned, blistered and occasionally made him bleed. But with the pain tolerance he had, this was as close as he could get to the feeling of how his mother scrubbed his scalp with her nails when she washed it. She'd rub and scratch his head until it tingled.

Maloker ambled into Spike's room, choosing to forget once more that knocking was a thing. Spike didn't bat an eye at the intrusion. "I don't understand what this offending odor from your hair has to do with bringing back my brethren."

"It's an image thing. You exude the right aesthetic and confidence, and people will follow you."

"I don't want people to follow me. I want them to crawl at my feet," Maloker growled.

"Tomato, tomahto." When Maloker didn't get it, Spike rolled his eyes. "Same difference. We can get people to crawl at our feet willingly if we can make it seem like they're getting something out of it. You never give them more than hope. The world will fall at your feet if you give them hope but never pay out."

"Make this happen."

"Working on it, mate." Spike's timer went off and he bounced to his feet, head tingling the way he liked. "This step is just about complete."

"I don't understand this infernal time." Maloker growled again and left Spike's room.


"So the movies are all wrong?" Buffy said as boredom took over. "No serial numbers, just socials? Considering identity theft, I'd think that's a dangerous thing to do."

No comment from the prisoner.

"If I didn't know better, I'd say you were some naive farm boy. Or well I'm still guessing farming's in there somewhere. And I have to say if you signed up to capture and kill innocent people because you think supernatural equals evil, I'd say naive still applies. So I will stick with my original assessment."

Still no comment.

"I'm bored. Let's fight." She got up and dialed the combination into the lock, letting her into his cage and locking it behind her.

"I won't hit a girl," Riley said.

"So he can speak. Let's put a little wager on it then. If I win, you tell me what I need to know. If you win, I'll let you go." Her mischievous smile belied her anger.

"And you'll honor that?"

"Yep. I'll even do it with my eyes closed." Buffy did as she said.

He stood up and circled her. Once he'd done that once he doubled back a third before making a move. Riley brought his arm down to grab her shoulder and wound up in her grip. She spun around turning his arm with her so that his back faced her, and he had to double over to avoid dislocating his shoulder.

"I could break your shoulder from this position, but I'll be super nice and let you try again."

She let him go with a shove, and he wasted no time before spinning and kicking her in the chest. But it didn't land, and he ended up kicking the concrete wall with a scream as his tibia splintered. A chunk stuck through his pant leg as blood pooled under him.

"Say that looks bad." Buffy knelt down next to him. "Now tell me what I want to know, and I'll get you to the hospital."

He breathed through his nose as he clamped his mouth shut.

"Fine. Be like that." She turned and shouted. "Giles! Some help here!"

"I'd say you were being especially cruel, but then again this man can save our friends and yet he choses not to, making him worth less than sun in a library." Giles entered the cage. "I have half a mind to leave him like this, but since we don't want him dead, I'll do what I can."

Buffy left Giles to care for Major Finn. When she got outside, she gasped for air as she silently wept. She had become what she fought, a monster. And she'd do it again. She'd turned into a monster, and she'd do it again. With Willow in danger, Buffy would cross that line and then the next until she got her friend back safe.


Another text and another dead end had Willow near tears. If she wanted to save Oz, she needed to figure this out. The sounds of demons whimpering, growling, and banging the walls leaked through her concentration, sending her into a rage like she'd never experienced.

Naked and growling in fury with fangs but no bumps, Willow threw the useless book at the electrified glass wall. It caught fire and landed in the corner. She moved the other books to the other side of her cage, keeping them safe from the flames, but then she ignored the fire and went back to researching. The tile floor cracked under the heat, but the fire didn't spread.

"… the woman who grows up with the idea that she is simply to be an amiable animal, to be caressed and coaxed, is invariably a bitterly disappointed woman. A game of chess will cure such a conceit forever. The woman that knows the most, thinks the most, feels the most, is the most. Intellectual affection is the only lasting love. Love that has a game of chess in it can checkmate any man and solve the problem of life." - Charles Dickens


"The troops you sent out the other day have returned with ten times their numbers in recruits." Maloker growled at Spike's smirk.

"Good, now half of them need to get caught." Spike stood up and walked out the door. "I'll address their questions myself."

"There are over two dozen species out there," Maloker said, following Spike.

"I can use visual aids if I don't know the language." He picked the poster boards he made for this occasion as he passed through the office section of the tunnel. "Mal, you need to calm down. Everything's going better than planned."


Xander and Faith followed the Colonel around the facility, both making mental notes of its strengths and weaknesses. They were walking through the containment area when the Colonel stopped in front of a specific cell.

"This is Hostile 29. It's been modified with spliced DNA from the deceased Hostile 5. This creature is intent on making the 314 project a reality. We keep it focused on this mission through using what little empathy such a creature is capable of against it."

Faith could tell even from behind that this "hostile" was none other than Willow Rosenberg, and so could Xander. Despite the scars crisscrossing her back, there was the way she held herself that both spies recognized as Willowy. Faith now knew why Xander was here and decided that she'd make Willow a project of hers.

"She looks like she's in a lot of pain," Xander said, trying to hide the full weight of his concern.

"Its pain is of no concern. What is of our concern is containing its power. So long as it remains in the compound, the only magic it can do is what we tell it to do." The Colonel puffed out his chest when Willow turned and growled at him fangs elongated. "See, it's nothing more than an animal."

"What's the procedure for moving the hostiles to the Pit?" Faith asked.

"We'll talk about that in a few minutes." The Colonel pointed to the next cell. "This is Hostile 28, and it's how we keep 29 in check. When the next full moon comes we'll know if we cured it. It seems to think that it's no longer a werewolf now that we've cut off its left hand, but there's no evidence to suggest it's trying to do anything other than trick us into letting it go."

"Why'd you cut off the hand?" Xander asked, averting his eyes away from Oz to keep his cool.

"Because 29 stopped working." The Colonel slid his keycard and walked out the door. Faith and Xander followed. Faith was unaffected by the plight of the demons and witches here, but Xander was nauseated. Once the door was shut behind them the Colonel continued. "We drug their food and once they succumb to the sedatives, a team muzzles and cuffs them before using a stretcher to bring them to the Pit."

The gears in Faith's head were already turning searching for a way to get herself out of this crap assignment. This one tour gave her everything she needed to get there.


Riley couldn't sleep through the pain in his leg. That Giles character did a good job as a field medic, setting and splinting the break, but they wouldn't even give him an aspirin. Every instinct in his body told him that these were good people pushed to doing bad things for the right reason, but he wouldn't commit treason. Through the haze of pain, he tried to find a way to help them, and help himself while not facing the stockade later. His frailty was so clear that Buffy felt comfortable sleeping during her watch.

His thoughts were interrupted when Xander rushed down the stairs. "Buffy!"

Buffy was instantly awake. "What's going on?"

Xander whispered in her ear at a panicked pace and the longer he went on, the more ashen her face became. When he leaned back, she asked, "Did you see a way to get them out?"

"No. The entire place has cameras watching it and several soldiers watching those feeds. I didn't see many weak points in their security."

"But there were some?" When Xander nodded, Buffy took a breath. "Then we go in with a full on assault."

"There's only three of us, we'll get slaughtered." Xander leaned against a wall. "Though small numbers might be an advantage if we stick to the hallways. We could work it like a bottleneck. There'd be only so many soldiers that could fight us."

"Think we can pull a Judge?" Buffy asked.

"Sure. I'm not a hundred percent, but I remember enough to get through. Wanna play an airhead turned on by guns?"

"Not really, but I will. But I hate guns, they never help."

"There's plenty of other equipment we could use." Xander sighed. "This would be fun if it weren't for…"

"I know." Buffy hugged Xander. "Things will never be the same, but we'll bring them home and help them somehow."

Xander nodded. "I'll go get Giles so he can guard the meathead while we do the grand theft thing."

"We should use Oz's van. You drive."

He nodded again before leaving.

Riley understood enough of that conversation to know they were going to try to storm the Initiative. "You'll fail."

"Didn't ask you." Buffy scowled at him. "You'll get my attention only when you decide to be useful."


Faith stood in front of Willow's cell, key card in hand. "Hey, Red. Want outta here?"

Willow looked at Faith with new eyes. While most of the soldiers and doctors here had ugly skin, Faith's was flawless. "I want Oz out of here more."

"Tell you what. I can get both of you out of here if you agree to join my side. We could use a witch." Faith waited until Willow nodded before pressing the button to the explosives she set behind the wall of monitors in the control room. With a slide of her card, she opened both their cells. "Follow me, love birds."

They threw on the lab coats Faith tossed to them and followed her through a maze of hallways. The three of them dodged soldiers and slid under doors before they shut. Running down a hall that looked different from the rest, some of the commandos came up behind them. Willow tried to throw up a shield, but her magic still didn't work and a bullet caught Oz in the back of the head the blood and gore splattering both Faith and Willow.

"No!" Willow screamed as her devastation blinded her.

Faith dragged Willow through the last door, pausing for just a moment so Faith could shake her. "We need to make a stealthy retreat. Get it together."

Willow nodded, tears unrelenting as they made their way through the woods and into Spike's lair. When they stopped, Willow's nose flared. "I won't rest until they're all dead."

"Then you want what we want," Faith said as she caught her breath. "Welcome to the party, Red."

Willow looked around at the demons in the cave. "Who's in charge."

"That'd be me." Spike ambled into the anterior part of the cave. "And my partner Faith."

"Did the spying thing. Wasn't much to learn that we didn't already know. But I've got a blueprint in my head, and I got a mega powerful witch on our side." Faith wrapped an arm around Willow's shoulders.

"Don't touch me." Willow stepped away from Faith. "I know what they're working on, and I know what will happen to it. I don't think they realized what they did when they mixed Drusilla into me."

Spike growled, picked up a bowl, and threw it at the cave wall.

"I'm sorry, Spike." Willow ran her hand over his back, keeping an inch of air between her skin and his shirt. "But trust me when I say, they'll pay for what they've taken from us."

Lip curled, Spike turned and studied Willow's scarred face. "Yes, we will."


Professor Walsh examined Hostile 29's cell. The last book was open and after skimming the content of that spell, Walsh was sure they could convince one of the other witches to do the it. While losing 29 was a setback, it wasn't a total loss.

Buffy and Xander's plans to infiltrate the Initiative were waylaid by the alarms still sounding and the complete lockdown of the facility.

"Looks like you'll be playing soldier until we can get her back." Buffy sighed and leaned on a tree. "Please tell me you can fool them for a while longer."

"Yeah." He didn't really believe that. "I want to get Oz out of there before they chop off his other hand."

"What about Willow?" Buffy asked her brow furrowed.

"I don't know if she's still really Willow. You didn't see her, Buffy. Her whole body was scarred, and she had fangs. They turned her into a monster."

"They turned her?"

"No, but they spliced DNA from a vampire into hers. She was feral and fangy."


"So tell us, Wills, what's the big project they had you working on?" Faith asked while she plucked Spike's cigarette out of his fingers and took a drag.

Willow sat cross-legged on the floor and looked up at them with an innocent love to teach. "They're trying to combine human, demon, and mechanical parts to make some kind of super soldier. But their plans are flawed, they want something obedient, but instead of using something like a Fyarl, they used a demon called Titan. He's one of a kind and they didn't do their due diligence when they captured him and instead relied on tests that he manipulated. Titan's a dawn of time kind of demon and he doesn't play well with others. He hates demons and humans alike."

"What will this human/demon/cyborg..." Spike started.

"They're calling him Adam."

 

"What will Adam's capabilities be?" he asked taking his cigarette back.

"Extensive and unfortunately if they look close at the last book they give me, Adam should be operational in less than a week. The good news is that I know Adam's one and only weakness."

Faith and Spike listened to Willow as she laid out a plan. "Hey, blondie, see, I knew this girl would be, what's the word?"

"Pivotal?" Willow supplied.

"Yeah, pivotal. We should be one of those triumvirates." Faith grinned. "An unstoppable three headed monster."

"That's a lot of cooks in the kitchen, love."

"It's a big kitchen." She teased his lips with hers. "We want the world don't we?"

"I didn't know Red here was after world domination. And I don't remember telling you that was my goal."

"It was obvious." She kissed his neck, "Take down the government behind a veil of secrecy," nipped at his ear, "and put the right puppets into play with you pulling the strings." Her hand pushed down on his groin. "But it should be the three of us pulling the strings, we can control more puppets that way, right lover?"

"I'm not saying yes because of the sex," he muttered before he kissed her with lots of tongue.

Faith pulled back for air. "Of course not." She turned to Willow and panted out the words: "Wanna join the party?" as Spike bit her neck with blunt teeth.

"You think I'm going to leave the world to you two by yourselves? Unh-uh. Count me in." Willow watched them fuck each other on the desk with a detached interest.


"How's the pain?" Giles asked sitting in the folding chair outside Riley's cage. "Judging by the amount of sweat, I'd say it's excruciating. An infection has set in hasn't it?"

Riley looked away.

"So the answer is yes." With a Ripperesque smile, Giles pulled a bottle of pills out of one coat pocket and a bottle of water from the other. "I have a full treatment of antibiotics with me, but if you want them, you need to start talking."

Eyes rimmed dark pink and bloodshot, shaking from internal chills, Riley stared Giles down. "Fuck off."

From a leather case at his feet, Giles pulled out a bone saw. "Then I have no other choice than to cut off your leg. What a shame to lose the entire limb because of a simple break."

The shakes turned into tremors of fear as Giles approached the cage with the saw.

"Without someone to hold you down, this will be particularly painful." Giles got a pair of handcuffs out of his pocket once he was inside the cage. "But it would kill you if I didn't restrain you somehow. And you're useless dead."

The struggle to get Riley's hands cuffed around the one bar displaced the leg splint, and Riley screamed as his leg turned ninety degrees mid-shin.

Riley's pant leg had been torn off, so Giles applied a tourniquet mid thigh, and set the saw teeth just above the knee. "Let me explain something before we begin. Once I start, there will be no stopping me. Your last chance to tell me what I want to know ends in five, four, three, two, one." Giles pressed the saw down enough to just break the skin.

"Stop! I'll tell you anything you want to know." Riley's breath came fast and hard in his panic.

"Superb. We'll start by you telling me about the government agency for which you work. And we'll be finished when you have nothing else to tell me." Giles looked down at Riley's leg. "Shall I reset your leg first?"

"Please."

Giles put a piece of leather in Riley's mouth. "Since you asked nicely."


"Please," the first witch to fail in regenerating Adam's flesh pleaded. "I'm sorry. I can try again."

"Shut up or I'll shoot you now." Maggie nodded to the second witch when the first witch stopped talking.

The trembling second witch stuttered out the spell, lighting candles, and sprinkling herbs. Nothing happened.

Professor Walsh grit her teeth. She shot the first witch in the head. "Bring in the next one. No one sleeps until this is finished."

The soldiers hurried to follow orders as the captive shrieked in horror. "NO! NOOOOOOOOOO!"


Initial concept outline

 

Queen's Pawn Game

A more coherent and scary S4 of Buffy

They talk about the weird paintball fanatics they’ve seen all summer.
Strange occurrences of demons that go missing, both good and evil ones.
Buffy and Parker are a thing and that goes on for a lot longer than it did on the show.
Willow and Oz get captured by invisible soldiers (a la Marcie Ross)
Spike’s hiding out and dusts Harmony before she can do any damage to his goals.
Spike and Buffy stalemate at least twice before Faith wakes up.
Spike and Faith team up. And find out more about the Initiative. They figure out that Buffy’s best gal pal and her dog got nicked by the Initiative.
Walsh is a better bad guy in that she’s crueler and her torture of Oz and Willow is disgusting and disfiguring. She forces Willow into a servitude by threatening Oz and other witches. Willow helps create Adam.
Buffy’s floundering. They need to fight the Initiative but Faith and Spike keep showing up and making their lives extra miserable.
Adam is actually scary and menacing. He imposes himself on the scene and it terrifies everyone. He’s also just a lapdog for Walsh. The only person who knows that is Willow though.
Faith and Spike learn some things about the Initiative and Faith sneaks in to learn more. In the process, Willow offers to assist Faith in return for helping her and Oz escape. Oz is already dead though, but Willow still promises to help Faith if the goal is to take down the Initiative. They come to terms on that and Willow sides with Spike and Faith from now on.
Buffy and Riley are a thing, and that thing is harsher because he’s an innocent person fooled into believing he’s doing good. Walsh knows that her ends aren’t peaceful. Her goal is the same as the one the Initiative’s had all along. Harness the demons to use as soldiers. Riley is torn between what’s right and wrong here. Using demons so that humans don’t have to fight isn’t a bad one, but they’re hurting good demons too.
Buffy refuses help from Spike this time because he came back and because Faith is still evil she refuses her help. She doesn’t know that they’re being helped by Willow now and they have true inside information.
Willow has inside knowledge of not only the Initiative, Adam, and Walsh, but also Buffy, Giles, and Xander, plus a weird instinct about Riley and a lot of the soldiers that don’t know what they’re doing. She’s now leaning toward Dru in her precog abilities. Something Walsh did to her through magically transfusing her with demon essence. So she’s very attractive to Spike and Faith. But she won’t let either one of them touch her. Or let anyone touch her at all. But Willow’s the one that convinces each of the game pieces to work together against the woman who thinks she’s the chessmaster.
Willow’s the pawn that works her way to the end of the board and then takes over the game. She crushes everyone and then disappears.




The fires along Revello were too much for the fire department to control even without the vampires and demons openly killing anyone that fled their blazing homes. Buffy had gotten her mother and sister to safety, but she couldn't fight so many demons at one time and no one else had made it that night. Firefighters and residents alike were nothing more than bodies littering the ground and there were demon bodies among the dead. Buffy felt ready to drop after a fight that made the Mayor look breezy, but it was about to get worse despite the sun being already half up. A shadow in the smoke materialized into Spike.

Buffy knew which ring was the Gem of Amara. It spread diamond spiderwebs up his hand, arm, and over part of his chest, back, and neck, weaving in and out of his skin. While it allowed him free movement, her attempts to cut it off his body proved that she had no blade strong enough to break it. And she knew it wasn't actual diamond, diamonds can cut each other and her new axe had a diamond blade and didn't even dent the material.

He hit her hard enough to crack a tooth. She tried to run, but her battered body wasn't fast enough. Spike grabbed her hair, yanked her to his chest, exposed her throat and bit… hard. She knew he wouldn't kill her. This was the latest of his bites, all designed to make her submit, and this time she had to. When he let her go, she fell to the ground without his support.

"Do you give in yet? If the answer is no, then you need to consider that I know where your family is. They're staying with the Watcher. So do you give up?" Spike asked as he thumbed the blood on the corner of his lips into his mouth.

She panted as she tried to stand, only to fall and scrape the heels of her hands on the concrete. With tears in her eyes, she screamed, long and painful, "Yes."

"I'll expect my prize to be delivered to the mansion before dark. And I can't wait to see who you give me. I'm all a tingle with anticipation."


The door to Giles' apartment loomed, and she had the worst news to give them all. The gang was inside, Giles, Willow, Xander, Mom, Dawn, Oz. If she had her way she'd give up Anya, but she had disappeared weeks ago.

Buffy limped into the apartment, dripping blood from a myriad cuts and scrapes. Giles and Willow had waited up all night and jumped into action like a well coordinated machine. Willow sat Buffy down and peeled away destroyed clothes, while Giles retrieved soapy water, gauze, tape, and antibacterial cream.

"Sss, that's the worst so far," Willow said as she pulled Buffy's hair out of the congealing blood on her neck. "Spike?"

"Who else, ah." Buffy winced, a hair creating a funky sensation as Willow removed it from the wound. "But that's the only thing from him."

"We watched the news until the reporter and camera person were eaten. Your mom tried to stay up, but Giles drugged her to keep her from going after you." Willow took a wet soapy washcloth from Giles, and dabbed at the bite mark.

"She's a parent, and any good parent would want to help their child. I did what you would have wanted, yes?" Giles took his own cloth and wiped at a cut just above Buffy's elbow. "This needs some butterfly bandages. I'll be right back."

"Giles?" Buffy said, pushing Willow's hand away. "It's time."

"I see. Once we have you patched up, I'll wake everyone. Might as well tell them all at one time." Giles ducked down the hall toward his bathroom.

"Tell us what?" Willow asked, forehead creased.

The conversation had started to wake those sleeping on the living room floor and couch. Buffy closed her eyes. "You'll find out in a few minutes."

Willow nodded and continued to clean out Spike's bite.

Everyone, except Buffy's mom, had been in the living room, and they were awake now, mulling about and talking in hushed tones as they ate breakfast. When Willow and Giles were finished bandaging Buffy's wounds, which included a gash over the eye and another under, deep claw marks on her back and stomach, and a puncture in her thigh, Giles told the children to gather around him in the living room.

Joyce joined them then. "What's going on?" Oz left his spot on the couch and moved to stand next to Willow. Joyce took his seat and asked, "What's the matter?"

"I have something to tell you. Something about Spike. As you know he has the Gem of Amara, and that despite our extensive research, we cannot remove it from him. He's become invulnerable and has acquired startling new abilities. He can shape-shift, teleport, and if he concentrates, he can read minds. We all know this. And we all know that he's become increasingly violent in his strategic attacks against the residents of Sunnydale." Giles cleaned his glasses.

"Why are you telling us stuff we already know?" Willow asked.

"Because I need to remind all of you what's at stake. Spike's made an offer, a truce of sorts. He'll stop the attacks and help guard the Hellmouth for a price." Giles rubbed his forehead and tried to clear his mind.

"What's the price?" Xander asked. "Can we charge it?"

"The price… is giving up one of our own. To Spike, to become his pet, forever." Giles wished he could find Xander's falling face amusing.

"We can't do that!" Dawn exclaimed. "We can't."

"And how many more would you let die?" Giles snapped.

"I'll go." Willow stepped forward, resolve face firmly in place. "When Spike kidnapped me and Xander last year, I gained some of his respect, stood up to him and got him to not bite or rape me. I know I won't be so lucky this time, but I'd fare better than anyone else."

"Willow?" Oz touched her elbow. "Talk to me."

"Oz, I have to do this. I can't let my home burn and watch my family die when I can keep it from happening."

Buffy stood up and hobbled into the circle. "We found a way to make sure Spike keeps his promise. There's a blood oath, but if we demand that, he will want something else."

With a squeeze to Willow's hand, Oz said, "Give him me too then."

Willow and Oz pressed their foreheads together, gazes locked. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

With a sniff, Willow straightened. "We need to pack. How long do we have?"

"I need escort you to the mansion before dark."

Xander jumped up. "You mean you agreed to this before even telling us? It looks like you and Giles knew about this for a while now. And you decided to give one of us up to him without even a warning? Why don't you give him you?"

"I tried," Buffy said on a sob. "Don't you think I tried?"

The room fell quiet. Dawn cried into her mother's shoulder, Joyce kept her face toward the window, Xander punched a hole in the wall but said nothing else, and Giles hugged Willow, while Buffy shuffled outside to cry in private.

"We should go," Oz said.

In a shaky voice, Willow explained the worst part of the deal. "I have to tell you, make sure you know. We'll have to do everything he asks? That may include killing or hurting innocent people? You know that right? Can you handle that?"

"I'm good."

Willow wiped her tears away. "I'll explain the pet ritual to you on the way."

"How?" Giles asked.

"I read it in the Watcher's Diaries."

"So you were fully aware when you agreed to this." Giles was stunned and morbidly proud.

"Yes."

The mansion towered over the three friends as they exited Oz's van, the hues of sunset doing nothing to soften the gothic monolith.

"Tell me I'm doing the right thing." Buffy twisted her hands together.

"You are. We are," Willow said as she rubbed Buffy's arm.

"I'm petrified." Buffy sucked in a breath. "I'm terrified that he'll go back on his promise and just kill the two of you for sport."

"If he does that, you take Oz's van and you run. You get your family, Xander and Giles and run." Willow kissed Buffy's forehead. "We should get this over with."

"Here goes nothing." Oz slung his backpack and guitar case over his shoulders then picked up his amp.

Willow picked up her suitcase and laptop case and took Oz's free hand. "What does that even mean? Here goes nothing? I have to say that this is something that's going. Doesn't it mean we think we'll fail? That's no way to think. We will not fail. This will be a success even if I have to rain fire down to make it so."

Oz kissed Willow's hand. "I meant it more in that we already failed, and this is our concession."

"Oh, well, that makes sense."

Buffy gave the couple a wistful smile. She would miss them both so much.

It was Oz who knocked on the door, and it was a minion that answered. "Master is through here."

The three of them followed and found Spike in the garden, back facing them. "I hear three heartbeats. Does that mean you want something else, slayer?"

"In a sense." Buffy stood in front of her friends. "We want you to take a blood oath to keep your promise."

Spike turned to face them. "Let's take a gander at what you brought me." Willow smiled weakly at Spike as he studied her form. "Over here, Willow."

Willow held her head high as she went to stand behind him.

Buffy put her arm in front of Oz. "You don't get Oz until you swear with your blood that you'll stop attacking the town and protect the Hellmouth."

"I swear by my blood to stop mass attacks on Sunnydale and help keep the Hellmouth closed." Spike bit into his wrist but the drops of blood never hit the ground, but rather disappeared in sparks of light that glinted off the gem on his exposed hand, arm and throat. "Now get out of here before I kill you, slayer."

With one last look at her friends, Buffy nodded and walked stiffly out of the mansion.

"So they gave me the witch and the wolf?" Spike circled the two. "The two most powerful soldiers outside the slayer. I got the better part of this deal. Though since I promised to help keep the Hellmouth closed that means I will have to lend your services to the bitch from time to time."

Oz stood there unperturbed setting his things down, giving Willow the strength to not react to Spike's obvious attempts to rattle them. She put her bags on the ground carefully.

"Before we begin, I need to ask a question. Which one of you would like to be a doctor and which would like to be a computer programer?"

Willow looked at her feet. "I'm good at both medicine and computers."

"Then you'll double major, freeing the wolf here to go into accounting and psychology. The two of you will be well rounded and useful pets." Spike ran a finger down the side of Oz's face. "Let's talk rules. First, I demand a verbal answer when I speak to you. You will address me as Master. And if you're awake and I'm there, you will look to me unless I say otherwise. Always state what's on your minds. I want to hear what you think, about your emotions, because you are mine and so everything you are, including what's on the inside, belong to me too. I will punish you as I see fit with or without cause. Work toward the goal of anticipating my wants and needs. I think that's a good place to start, don't you?"

"Yes, Master," the couple said in unison.

"Good, now here's what I know for sure about what will happen to you after the ritual: you'll be immortal and will only die if I do which is very unlikely, or if I'm the one doing the killing; you'll have heightened senses, though I'm not sure how much more for the wolf; you'll be as strong as me; your magic, Willow, and your wolf, Oz, will answer to me; and you'll heal faster." Spike pursed his lips for a moment. "Here's what I don't know. I have all kinds of new tricks, and I don't know if you'll be able to use those or not. I'm sure you're already aware of many of them: invulnerability, shapeshifting, mind reading, teleporting. Now here's what you don't know: I don't need an invitation, I have a reflection again, garlic is delicious, I don't need to feed as often, I don't sleep, and I can fly. After the ritual, I don't know how these powers will manifest or not in the two of you. So who's up for an experiment?"

"Can't lie, I'm intrigued… Master," Willow said with pensive expression.

"Me too, Master." Oz nodded, internally chafing at calling anyone Master.

"Then let's get started. Do we need to go over the details of the ritual before we begin?" Spike asked as he slipped his fingers through Willow's hair.

"No, Master, we both know what to do." Willow's breath caught when her gaze met with Spike's two inches away. His eyes glimmered in the failing light like they were made of glass.

"Totus EGO sum est totus vobis," Willow said as she bared her neck to Spike. She winced when he bit her, but it didn't hurt as much as she thought it would. When he drew back, she was smiling. "Nifty." She leaned against the vine covered wall to stay upright. She kept her eyes on Spike as he bit into his wrist again, when he offered her that wrist, she didn't hesitate to cover the wound with her mouth. Her tongue laved the wound, drinking down every drop she could before it closed.

"That's it, love." Spike ran his fingers through her hair some more, keeping their gazes locked. Her lips were speckled with blood when she lifted her head.

"I feel… wow," Willow looked at her hands as she willed them to turn into paws. Soon she was completely transformed into a wolf with white fur streaked with red. Then she was herself again. "This is so cool. There's so much I want to do."

"Feel free, pet," Spike said.

"I think I'll wait for Oz, oh um, Master. I will get used to that. I promise."

Spike laughed at her exuberance.

When Spike looked at Oz, the wolf said, "Totus EGO sum est totus vobis." The bite felt right to Oz, like he'd been missing something before. His member, now half hard, surprised him. He'd never been into guys, but this reaction was as much about Spike's body pressed against his, as it was the bite. Drinking Spike's blood hardened Oz even more. He was drunk on Spike's power when Oz kissed him. Spike spun Oz and pressed himself more securely against the wolf, trapping him between the wall and his body.

The scent of Willow's tears pulled Oz away from Spike. "Willow, I'm sorry."

Spike let his wolf go to their witch, smirking at their pain and guilt. He watched Oz apologize and hold the girl. She was more than prepared to forgive Oz, and Spike wondered why. Neither of them were looking at him, but Spike could wait to punish them for that infraction.

Willow noticed Spike had left them before Oz did. "Not good. We're not supposed to take our eyes off him. We need to find him in a now type of sooner."

"How much can he harm us?" Oz asked as if the answer were inconsequential.

"I don't want to find out because this is Spike, and he'll come up with something truly horrific. Something that will break us both. He's that kind of baddie." Willow wiped her tears away and searched for Spike in the mansion. The minions were nowhere to be found, and she hoped Spike hadn’t left with them. "How long did we ignore him?"

"I don't know. Ten minutes."

She started to shake. "I'm going to try something. Teleporting. If we can teleport to him, maybe he won't be as mad. I hope."

Oz nodded, and they both closed their eyes and focused. Willow remembered Spike's eyes, while Oz pictured him as a whole.

"Glad you could join the party," Spike drolled.

The couple opened their eyes and saw that they were outside the Bronze. "We're sorry, Master. It won't happen again. We're just not used to focusing so completely on someone. Oz and I promise it will never happen again." Willow’s trembles felt like earthquakes in her chest.

"There'll be no hard feelings in the morning, but you have to do something to make that happen. You need to go inside and pick up two people. Willow, you'll find a woman, and seduce her into coming outside. Oz, you'll seduce a man. You have an hour or I'll be cross enough to kill one or two of your little gang. If you succeed then your friends are safe. How much are you willing to sacrifice tonight?" Spike pressed Willow against the wall when her eyes flickered away. "Eyes always on me, pet. And don't forget you are my pet. My slave. My toy. You exist for my enjoyment and nothing else."

Willow cringed but kept her eyes locked on his. "Yes, Master. Will you be inside?"

"No, so you don't have to split your attention. I'll be waiting in the alley." Spike grinned when she shrank away. "Eyes to the club, you two. And get me my couple."

"Yes, Master," Willow whispered, while Oz said it flat. They retreated inside the club where Oz stopped Willow and said, "We can't do this."

"We can't let him kill our friends," Willow replied.

"They'd at least know what's happening to them."

"But they can save more people. Can you say the same thing for anyone in here tonight?" Willow glanced around the club with her guilt evident in every worried crease of her forehead.

"How will they feel when they find out we let Spike kill two people to save them?" Oz touched her arm.

"Who would Spike kill? Giles? Our best chance at stopping Spike? Xander who still remembers some of his military training? Joyce? Dawn? It would destroy Buffy to lose them. She'd fight recklessly and get herself killed, meaning the only person guarding the hellmouth would be Spike. You know that's not an option. He may stop others from opening it, but he'd let Sunnydale be a demon playground. So who do we save? Do we save the people equipped to stop that or do we save two innocent people and let the town burn?" Her eyes were filled with tears of frustration and anger. "I told you what we were getting ourselves into and you still agreed to this. It's too late to turn back."

"I thought I could, but… I can't." Oz felt closer to tears than he had since he was little.

"I'll have to seduce them both then. Pray he accepts it." Willow murmured to herself, "I'm so glad I got this fake ID. I don't think I can do this sober."

Oz sat in the corner and watched Willow go to the bar and order a drink. As she waited for it, she scanned the crowd. He couldn't look away as she downed two shots of something brown and took a short glass of the same stuff with her as she approached a couple on the dance floor. The way she placed herself between the man and woman was brazen, but he could see her awkward hesitations.

The man was tall, over six foot, and probably of Latin or Hispanic descent. The girl was dark with short purple hair. Willow put her arms on the woman's shoulders, and drink still in hand, drew her in close. The woman laughed at something Willow said, and the man gathered close behind Willow, just shy of grinding into her.

A familiar ache clutched Oz's heart as Willow kissed the woman. He'd just kissed Spike with fervor, but that didn't change how he felt.

Willow got the couple outside in less than half the time Spike gave them. Oz knew he was going to get beaten, but Spike's cold eyes landed on Willow.

"I don't know whether to reward or punish you, Red." Spike leaned his head back and studied the couple. They were attractive, exotic for Hellmouth.

The couple didn't know what was going on and murmured to each other in confusion. When they tried to leave, Oz cut them off against his will, turning into a nreal wolf, his fur red with black streaks. Spike controlling everything.

"I'll do both. I'll reward you with a choice, pet." Spike sucked his cheeks in as he smiled malevolently. "You can give them to me to turn, or you can take a beating and they can go free."

"I'll take the beating." Her answer was immediate. Not even a breath of hesitation.

"My wolf, let them go."

Oz went to sit beside Spike, and the couple ran away. Spike watched them run while he absently pet Oz's head.

Spike snapped his fingers and Willow turned into her wolf form against her will. "You two are going to fight it out. Last one standing, gets a reward."

Both wolves whimpered as they circled each other. Neither made a move until Spike threatened to find that couple, and then Willow lunged at Oz, her teeth clamping onto his neck. Wolf instincts took over and the two of them growled and snapped at one another, taking chunks out of each other until Oz couldn't get up. Their fur was soaked with blood. Willow began to lick at Oz's wounds until Spike snapped his fingers again. Oz lay on his side on the disgusting alley floor, while Willow was on her hands and knees. They were a mess, both still covered in blood.

"Willow." Spike's tone was stern and she looked up at him.

"Yes, Master."

"You'll be my second in command."

"Yes, Master." Willow kept her eyes on Spike while she pulled Oz up to a seated position.

"When both of you can walk again, meet me inside."

Willow and Oz watched Spike enter the Bronze through the back door. Oz slumped into Willow as his wounds knit back together. "That could have gone worse."

She nodded. "Yeah. How are you feeling?"

"Better. The leg you shattered, I can feel it knitting back together."

"My ear is almost back on too." Willow sighed. "I'm sorry I did that to you."

"Me too."

They nuzzled their faces together.

Willow and Oz walked out of the administration building at UC Sunnydale and nearly ran into Buffy, who was shocked to see them. She dropped her books and grasped them both in a crushing hug. "Are you OK?"

"Tight." Willow smiled when Buffy let go in worry. "But you can't kill us so, it's all good."

Buffy could tell Willow was covering. "How bad is it?"

The redhead's smile brightened. "It's fine, really. We were declaring our majors."

"Spike's letting you continue school? You weren't here dropping out?" Buffy hoped she could hope.

"He insists we finish. Oz can even stay with the Dingoes. He wants us to be diverse, useful and interesting." Willow rubbed her arm. "I wish I could stick around, but I have a class in five minutes on the other side of campus."

Oz and Buffy watched her go. "Is she really OK?"

"Buffy, I understand that you want to protect your friend. But the best thing for her is if you don't pry." Oz softened the words with a small smile. "I too have class."

Her gaze followed Oz until the crowd swallowed him. "Yeah, that'll stave off the curiosity."

In the window above, Spike watched the exchange and was happy that his pets shared nothing they weren't supposed to. In an hour he was auditing a class on poetry that Willow set him up with, so he had something to keep him occupied until he could go home with his new pets.

He thought back on the night before. They had danced at the Bronze, working up a heat that radiated from them. Then they played in the park in animal form. Willow turned into a raven while Oz preferred a true wolf form. Spike had decided on being a leopard for the evening. They spooked some locals but left them alive. It had done a lot to earn him good will with his pets when he let that couple go. It was all by design. Seducing them now would keep them loyal to him forever.


Abstract poetry bored him, so Spike left that class in search of Oz. He should be out of class by now. There was a thread of a connection between them that Spike could follow. He found Oz without difficulty in a nearby used bookstore buying textbooks for his new classes. When Oz pulled out his wallet to pay, Spike tossed money on the counter. The cashier raised an eyebrow but didn't comment. "Have a nice day."

Oz nodded at her as he took his bag and followed Spike out of the store. "Didn't like your class, Master?"

"What's the point of abstract poetry? It doesn't even have a good sound to it." Spike squinted into the sunlight. "How were your new classes?"

"Fine." Oz felt a strange combination of nausea and belonging. Like he found his pack. The problem was that he hated the Alpha.

"I'm bored. Entertain me."

"I was on my way to practice. If you promise not to eat the band or groupies, you can come with."

"I sing you know." Spike saw how Oz fell into step with him and smirked.

"We've got a singer."

"Well, let's see if he's better than me." Spike shook a cigarette out of his pack and lit it.


Willow showed up at the Dingoes off campus house in time to break up an argument between Devon and Spike. She couldn't even make out what they were saying, but Spike was at the end of his rope and Devon would get his throat ripped out if it didn't stop now.

Oz was trying to get between them, but Spike kept grabbing his neck and shoving him away. Willow threw herself between the men and pressed on their chests. Forgetting her new strength, she shoved Devon too hard, and he landed halfway across the room taking a pile of old amps they used for spare parts down with him. "Crap." She turned on Spike then. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Spike gave her a lascivious smile. "That easy to work you into a lather, is it?"

She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and counted to ten before looking at him again. "Are you trying to get Oz kicked out of the band?"

"Hadn't thought about it." Spike wrapped an arm around her neck and pulled her close. "We could start a band of our own."

"I don't play an instrument and I can't sing." When he opened his mouth to make a suggestion she cut him off. "And even without sleep I don't have time to learn right now. I'm double majoring in pre-med and computer programming. Let Oz have his band, please. I promise once I graduate from med school, I'll learn an instrument and we can be whatever kind of band you want."

Spike kissed her cheek. "That's my girl." He turned to Oz. "We'll see you at home after practice?"

"Yes."

"Good."

The drummer whispered to Oz, "He's leaving with your girlfriend. Aren't you pissed?"

"Stay out of it." Oz went over to Devon who was just regaining consciousness. "Sorry about that man. I'll never bring him again."

Devon shook as he stood up. "You better keep him away. If I ever see him again, I'll kick his ass."

Oz's lips were a fine line. He was not going to let Spike ruin one of the few things that were still just his. But he remained in a funk for the rest of practice.


"I guess calling me Master every time you speak in public would just draw undo attention. I was going to punish the wolf when he got home, but this was a nice enough distraction that I'll let it go." Spike swiped a finger through the blood in Willow's face below where the razor protruded and licked it clean. "You can take the blades out now."

Willow's fingers slipped on every razor, taking several tries each to get them out. They were all embedded in bone, but no sooner were they out then the wounds healed. "May I take a shower, Master?"

"Please do. Can I watch?"

"Would you listen if I said no?" she asked as she got off the floor.

"I would."

"Then I'd prefer privacy, Master." Willow stretched her sore body as she walked into the bathroom.

He listened at the door to all the sighs and moans she made as the water sloshed over her skin. She had taken her punishment without complaint, impressing him.

The front door opened, signalling Oz's return home. Spike found him in the study opening a book he'd bought earlier that day. "Studying?"

"Yes, Master." Oz kept his eyes on Spike. "Can I continue?"

"In a minute. I was wondering, if I wanted to get on Willow's good side, what would I have to do?"

"That matters to you?" Oz was surprised.

"I realized after I left you with that pathetic excuse for a band that we're going to be together for a long time. It'd do me well to know what makes the two of you happy." Spike shrugged like it was no big deal.

"A good starting point would be to drop the Master nonsense. We don't need a title like that to remember that you own us. If you want to impress Willow, show interest in her studies." Oz scrutinized the expression on Spike's face.

"I suppose we can lighten up the rules. Let's keep it simple. The two of you follow my orders. Sound fair?"

"As fair as can be expected. Now can I study? Willow and I are both behind in our new classes."

"I can go out for a bite to eat. Willow's in the shower, when she gets out, tell her the new rule and have her question Louis about his whereabouts last night. She needs to take an active role as my second or the minions will treat her and you like dirt. Don't let them." Spike ran his fingers through Oz's spiky hair before leaving the room.

Willow walked down the hall of the mansion while Louis stalked her. She'd humiliated him when she questioned him and he couldn't let some pet dominate him like that. When he lunged at her, she turned and grabbed him by the throat. "Argh." She tossed him on the floor. "Don't be an idiot."

He lunged at her again so when she grabbed him this time she dragged him to the basement where the other minions were and beat him unconscious. Then she touched his forehead and said, "Mine."

The other minions didn't have a death wish so they said nothing as they lounged around on the half broken furniture.

She straightened herself and tugged her vest down. "Let's see how he likes that."

After she left the basement, she half fell when what she'd just done hit her. "Oh Goddess, I can't believe…"

"Can't believe what, pet?" Spike's eyes never left his book.

"I beat Louis till he passed out."

Spike looked at her then. "Good. And you did it in front of the others, well done. They'll obey you now."

"Yeah, I guess." She closed her eyes as she sat down. "It didn't take long for me to change."

"Change is inevitable. You should enjoy the power I've given you." He watched the tear slip down her cheek and sighed. "Love, trust me on this, you haven't changed that much."

She met his gaze. "How do you figure?"

"You were one of the slayer's group, yeah?"

"Yeah, so?" What was he trying to say?

"You faced demons and vampires before. And you didn't even have a tenth of the power then as you do now." He smiled when the edges of her mouth tipped up.

"Spike?"

"Yes?"

"Can I patrol with Buffy?"

"Would that make you happy?"

She nodded her head emphatically. "Oh yeah."

"I don't see why not then. The wolf has that band of his, you should have something too, yeah?"

Willow tackled Spike with a hug. "Thank you."

He was taken by surprise and hesitated a second before returning the hug. If this moment lasted forever it wouldn't have been long enough, but the next moment she was pulling away and running out the door. It was still late afternoon, so the minions were stuck in the basement of this many windowed mansion, but with the ring, Spike could go out. So he set his book down and followed the witch. He wanted to see her in action.

An hour later and he was standing in the courtyard of Giles' apartment building, listening to Willow and Buffy squeal over this new thing they could do together. A slip of a girl stood in the door watching him. Buffy's sister Dawn fascinated him. She was fearless. "What?"

"I thought you were like all powerful or something."

"I am."

"Then why are you hiding yourself from Buffy?"

"Just letting my girl have a good time. I like it when she's happy."

"Bull. If you wanted her to be happy then you wouldn't have forced her. Or Oz for that matter." The little girl had her arms crossed over her chest.

He looked at the ground with a huge grin on his face. The baby bird had spunk. "Do you have any idea the things I've done to girls your age?"

She paled and swallowed her fear. "You wouldn't even."

"You're right about that. I wouldn't. Not to you anyway. It would upset my pets too much, but trust me, you don't want to test my patience. They'll be alive a long time and I have all the time in the world to win them back to me." He took a step forward with each word until he was right in front of her. He loved that she wouldn't back up. Then he reached across the threshold and ran a finger down her cheek. "I like you."

That was more than Dawn could take and she screamed as she ran up the stairs, leaving the door open in her haste. Buffy was soothing Dawn when Willow walked coolly up to the door. "Scaring little girls is a bit beneath you isn't it?"

"Didn't hurt her." Spike knocked a smoke out of his pack and lit while he walked into the Watcher's flat. "I can apologize if you want."

"You wouldn't mean it." Willow scowled at Spike with arms crossed tightly over her waist.

He stepped into her space and with his free hand cupped her cheek, rubbing his thumb over the swell of it. "You've been with me for less than a week and the mouse has turned into a lion with the flip of a switch."

"What are you even doing here?"

"Thought I'd join you and the slayer on patrol. I get so bored when both my pets aren't around."

"Goddess forbid you have to entertain yourself, but I never thought you'd want to kill other demons."

"I'm not going to touch a single one, I'm going to watch you do it." He smiled and took a drag from his cigarette, still holding her face in his hand.

She tilted her head toward the caressing hand. "Don't push Buffy too much, please."

He got the hint, let his hand drop and took a step back. "Would it help if I bought Buffy a house?"

"Considering you burned down her last one?" Willow arched a brow at him.

"Done. I'll call first thing in the morning and make the arrangements." He gave Willow a cheeky smile.

"Take the cigarette outside?" Willow gave him just as cheeky a smile.

"What do you say?"

"Now." She stuck her tongue out at him as she pushed him out the door. Once the door was closed she took a deep breath to calm her fear. Why would she stick her tongue out at him? He'd just as soon cut it out of her head.

Buffy stepped off the bottom stair. "Dawn said Spike touched her? How'd he get past the threshold?"

"The Gem of Amara took away all the cons of vampirism and added a ton of power. We should have realized sooner that he doesn't need an invitation anymore." Willow stifled a giggle when she heard Spike laugh outside. When Buffy glared at her, she turned contrite. "Sorry. But he wouldn't hurt Dawn."

"She's petrified!" Buffy couldn't believe that Willow wasn't irate.

"I didn't invite him here if that's what you're implying. And I've given up my entire life to save this town and keep the Hellmouth closed. You have no idea what I've been through these last few days and I risked yet another punishment by asking if I could help you patrol. He's just bored and when he's bored he gets… ornery."

Buffy's eyes were huge as she studied her friend. "What kind of punishments?"

"May I?" Willow called through the door.

"By all means," Spike called back.

"I've been in a wolf fight, got my ear torn off that time, got razor blades imbedded in my bones, even with super strength, wet razor blades are a bitch to get out, and as his second I had to fight every last one of the minions with no break. I've had broken bones and bitten off digits," she wiggled her fingers in Buffy's face, "and a collapsed lung. And while I can heal fast and regenerate, it still hurts just the same as it would if I weren't his fucking pet. Do you have any idea how much therapy I need that I can never get?" Willow realized how upset she'd gotten and instantly deflated. "Sorry. It's been rough."

Tears in her eyes, Buffy pulled Willow into a hug. "No, I'm sorry. I was blaming you for Spike and that's not fair."

"Not to piss you off or anything, but he's coming with us on patrol."

Buffy groaned and pulled away from Willow. "Is it too late to call in sick?"




"Did you hear Sahjhan say that the Quor'Toth could only be opened once?" Gunn asked as he paced Fred's room. He couldn't sit still after seeing Angel go after Wes like that. "And I'm not getting used to Wes not being around anymore any time soon."

Fred lit up like lightbulb. "Sahjhan didn't say that the Quor'Toth could be opened once, he said he could only open it once. What if we found someone else to open it for us?"

"Like who?"

"That girl that restored Angel's soul. Wesley said that it was the first spell she learned, and if she's that powerful, she has to be able to do it, right?" Fred, without waiting for an answer, torpedoed downstairs. Wesley left his address book behind and she found a current number for Willow.

Not caring about the middle of the nightness, Fred dialed. The sleepy hello was cut short by Fred asking, "Is this Willow?"

"Hold on." The scream of Willow's name made Fred pull the phone away from her ear for a moment. Then a shaky voice answered. "This is Willow."

"Willow, my name's Fred. I work with Angel. We need your help real bad. Angel's son was kidnapped to a hell dimension, and you need to help us get him back."

"I can't help you. Hold on, Angel's son? Which one? Spike's here, so it has to be Penn or Lawson. And why would you want to save them?" Willow sometimes hated her eidetic memory after reading the Watchers' Diaries about Angelus.

"No not a vampire childe, a human child. Angel has an infant son named Connor. He's human and in a hell dimension and we have to get him. He's so small and in hell. We have to… you have to help us get him. Please. We'll do anything. He's just so tiny and helpless and in hell." Fred's hysteria took over and Gunn took the phone off her.

"What she means to say…"

"Is that there's a human infant in hell that needs my help?" Willow asked as she yawned. "Please tell me you've at least tried everything else under the sun before calling me?"

"The sun, moon, and stars. Even tried a law firm." Gunn watched Fred regain composure only to lose it again. "Look, we need the big guns, and you're it."

"I'll call you back as soon as I can. Where can I reach you?" Willow asked as she took the cordless with her down the hall.

"We're at the Hyperion."

"This may take awhile. Sleep with the phone."

"There's no sleep to be had." But Gunn was talking to a dial tone.

"Well?" Fred asked with all the hope in the world shining out her eyes.

"She'll call us back."

Willow knocked on Buffy's door with her hands shaking with withdrawal. "Buffy it's an emergency. There's a baby's life at stake. As in helpless infant in a hell dimension."

The door opened and Buffy stood there looking like she hadn't slept in two weeks and hair a rat's nest of tangles. But she had her blubbery face on. "A baby?"

"Yeah. They need me to get them into the hell dimension and I don't know what to do. Please tell me that I can use magic this one last time. It's a baby, and I don't think I can say no. Tell me it's OK?" Willow asked as another wave of shivers ran through her.

"We'll bring you back from this. You know we will. But if we're going into a hell dimension, we'll need all the firepower we can get. Let's get ready to go. Call them back and tell them we're on our way." Buffy doubled back. "Where are we going?"

"LA. The baby's Angel's." Willow waited to see Buffy's reaction.

"Angel has a baby? But he's a vampire and celibate."

"I didn't get all the details, but I'm assuming something mystical happened. We should get moving." Willow knew that a big spell all of a sudden would rip her in two, but she had an idea how to avoid that.

Buffy and Spike entered the Magic Box both curious what Willow needed from here. The table was full of books… blank books. They didn't even have titles. "This doesn't bode well." Spike peered through the gloom.

"Willow?" Buffy opened the training room door and found a woman in the middle of a candle circle. If the hair weren't black, she'd swear it was Willow standing there, but it looked like they had their own crisis here. "What'd you do with Willow?"

"Buffy," Spike said. "That is Willow."

When Willow turned to face Spike and Buffy, her black eyes had them taking several steps back. "We need to go. The child's in Quor'Toth and time moves differently there."

"We need to get to LA first. We need to get Angel." Buffy held her cringing at Willow's dark etherealness inside.

"Take my hands." Willow's voice echoed through both of them and they did as bade.

A nauseating moment later and the three of them were in the middle of a hotel lobby. "What the?"

"Welcome to the Hyperion. Angel lives and works here." Willow pointed to the office where a glimpse of Angel caught their eyes before he stood in front of them.

"Willow? Ah Buffy what are you doing here? With Spike? Who you're sleeping with?" Angel straightened himself. "You know what, I don't care. We need to get my son. Willow, Fred said you can rip reality and get us into Quor'Toth?"

"Something like that." Willow held her arms out and the four of them were surrounded by a red glow. And the Hyperion melted away. Replaced by charred earth and red skies. "Welcome to Quor'Toth. Connor's this way, but it might take time to find him. He's been here for years."

Buffy threw up on Spike's boot. "Sorry. Two teleporting trips back to back didn't sit well in the tummy."

Spike rolled his eyes but said nothing, and any smart ass comment he wanted to make to Angel died. Angel looked like he'd kill at the slightest annoyance. "Let's just find the little nipper and get back home, yeah?"

Angel wanted no part of the discussion between Buffy and Spike. All he cared about was his son, and they were tittering on about Willow's addiction and how they didn't know if she could come back from it this time. He didn't care about Willow, never had. To him she was a useful tool and nothing more.

When Willow put her hand up to tell them to stop, Buffy and Spike weren't paying attention and Buffy collided with Angel's back. He turned and growled at her before turning back to Willow. "What is it?"

"Your son." She pointed into the valley at two specks he could barely see.

"I don't see anything." Buffy said squinting.

"Let's go." Angel started down the steep hill, sliding more than walking.

Willow followed on his heels. Buffy and Spike shared a glance and a shrug before they too followed Angel.

It took what passed for a day in this hell to catch up to Connor. When they did a beast the size of twenty linebackers attacked. Holtz reacted first pushing a toddler behind him. The creature swiped claws longer than golf clubs and pieces of Holtz slipped to the ground. Willow built a spell up and let it explode, turning the monster into the next pile of parts. The toddler didn't scream at the sight of the gore, or cry over Holtz dying, but rather waddled up to Buffy, since she was closest, and poked her in the shin.

"Your real."

She bent over and asked him, "What's your name?"

"Stephen. What's yours?"

"Buffy."

"My father told me there were no humans here." Stephen poked Spike, then Willow, and stopped in front of Angel. "You look like my dream."

Angel's anger cracked, and he sank down to the boy's level, pulling Stephen into his arms. "Connor. My son."

Spike tapped Willow on the shoulder. "Let's go home now. You can get us there?"

"Of course." She touched Angel's shoulder as he held his son, took Buffy's hand, and nodded at Spike, signalling him to take Buffy's hand. An instant later, they were in the middle of the Hyperion lobby. Buffy threw up again.

Looking on Fred and Gunn were confused. "Didn't they disappear less than an hour ago?"

"Uh huh." Fred nodded.

"Thought so. Now there's a toddler?"

"Time must work differently there."

Stephen's bulged at the sight of the Hyperion. "Oh." He squirmed out of Angel's arms and ran around the lobby, touching everything. And all went well until he pulled his penis out and peed on the floor.

"I think we'll let Angel clean that up," Gunn said.

"Agreed," replied Fred. "But I think one of the men here should show little Connor the bathroom."

"That leaves me doesn't it?" Gunn asked. "The vampires never had to use one. It'll come in handy when I have my own, I guess."

"Connor, why don't I show you how we do that in this dimension."

"I'm Stephen, not Connor." His upset face was reminiscent of Mr. T's in its intensity.

"You still need to learn how to use a toilet, so don't be a punk, and follow me."

The toddler followed after he saw the nods from the ones that tried to save his father. The room they went to was small but was a color he didn't know. "What color?"

"White." Gunn felt bad for the kid, the Quor'Toth must have earned its rep of the darkest of dark dimension. "Check this out."

"What that?"

"It's a toilet and you pee in it then push this handle down like this." Gunn flushed the commode.

Stephen's eyes were saucer wide with a small O for a mouth. "Wow. Can I poop in it too?"

"As a matter of fact." Gunn smiled until Stephen dropped his pants and crawled onto the toilet. "Okay then. Call me when you're done and I'll show you how to wash your hands."

The kid had to hold himself up, so he didn't fall in, and Gunn left the door open a crack and stood right at the door just in case.

Soap didn't go over as well.

"He seems to like her this way." Angel's eyebrow lifted as he watched his son.

"I don't think we can change her back, love." Spike lifted his eyebrow watching Connor and his favorite playmate.

"But with the black eyes and hair and scary veins, aren't you two even the littlest worried about her influence on Connor?" Buffy asked.

"He's got her wrapped around his little finger. She's a psychopath on a short leash, not unlike Spike here." Angel cocked his head to the side as he watched Willow make another energy ball for Connor to attack.

"I don't think we should encourage his aggression," Buffy said as her head also cocked to the side.

"The tyke's having fun. Let him. We'll kill Willow if she gets out of control. No worries." Spike's head was at the same angle as the other two.

In the middle of the lobby, Connor did somersaults attacking the growing black energy ball. For a three year old he had amazing balance and coordination. At the moment he held himself upside down with one hand as he kicked and punched the ball. One of his feet got stuck in the middle and the ball floated toward the ceiling, carrying the toddler with it.

"Connor! Stop giggling and think your way through the problem," Willow said in a flat but echoing voice.

"My name's Stephen, Wiwwow."

"And mine's Willow not Wiwwow. So when you get my name right, I'll get yours right. Now think your way out of this."

Dangling upside down, Connor put a finger on his chin and furrowed his brow in an exceptional likeness of his father, just smaller and upside down.

"Aren't you going to stop this?" Buffy asked Angel.

"Why should I? He's got more enemies than I do. The boy needs every skill he can get." Angel put his hands around his mouth. "You can do it, Connor! I know you can."

"You still have to call me Stephen."

Spike stepped next to Willow. "Don't leave him like that too long. The blood will mess up the tot's brainpan."

With a few wiggles and a couple kicks, Connor broke free of the ball and twisted so he landed on his feet. "I did it, Wiwwow! I did it!"

"Good job. Now after lunch we're work on something less magicy and more technical."

"What's for lunch?" he asked.

"Pizza." Buffy said as she offered the boy her hand. "Let's get you to the kitchen where Fred and Gunn whipped you up something nummy."

He took her hand and dragged her to the kitchen. "Piza! Piza!" His laughter died when he saw the pizza. Grabbing a knife, he stabbed it a few times then frowned. "What's wrong with it? A couple stabs never did much against one of these things before."

"It was already dead. And I doubt they had these in the Quor'Toth." Gunn pulled a slice away from the rest. "Smell that."

Connor smelled and then gagged. "Eww, that's horidable."

They watched him run off.

"I think I used too many fennel seeds," Fred said as she frowned. "Though to be honest I think he'd like my bark burritos more than anything we've tried to feed him."

"We'll take him out for dinner. Let him forage in the park again. He liked that yesterday." Gunn was trying to make a joke but no one laughed. "Just saying the truth is all."

Angel scooped the fleeing toddler up. "What's wrong little man?"

"They tried to feed my gross stuff again." He crossed his arms over his chest and huffed.

"Well what have we fed you that you'd like to eat?" Angel asked as he carried the boy back toward the kitchen.

"Bekfat."

Spike slid up to Angel's ear to translate. "Breakfast."

"Well you're in luck. Your old man makes amazing scrambled eggs."

"K."

Connor looked up at Buffy as she did a handstand on a block of wood with apt attention. When she lifted one arm and stretched it out to the side and didn't lose her balance, his jaw dropped. Then she switched arms, still not falling, and he couldn't help his gasp.

"How'd ya do dat?"

Buffy brought one leg followed by the other down until she was standing. "It takes balance, inner balance as well as physical balance. Willow's turned you into a blunt instrument and that works sometimes, but there are times you need to be precise."

"Presis?" Connor's nose scrunched.

"Precise. It means exact." Seeing that the toddler was still confused, Buffy pulled her good luck piece out of her pocket. It was a marble she'd had since she was six, but she carried it with her at all times. "Snatch this out of my hand without touching my hand."

His first try hit the bottom of her hand sending the marble into the air, Buffy caught it and said, "Try again."

After five attempts and nearly losing the marble down a heating grate, Connor managed it. "Agin?"

"How about you try a handstand like I did."

Tongue pressed between his lips, Connor fell trying to do a handstand on the wood block at all. When he finally did it, he fell when trying to extend an arm. After half an hour, he wrinkled his face up at Buffy. "I'm bored. And hummy."

"Exercise builds the appetite. Let's go out for lunch. Do you want burgers or Chinese?" She fought him into his jacket. He put clothes on like he was doing battle and ripped them often, this time not being an exception.

"China."

"I see we're coat shopping too. There's no mending it this time. We may have to get leather or a suit of armor." Buffy sighed and tossed the ruined coat into the box Angel was keeping of things proving his son was special.

Stephen studied Spike as he drank more from the stinky bottle of poop looking water. He never smiled like that except when drinking that stuff.

"Spike?"

"Yeah, Pint?"

"Do you liiiiike how that tastes?"

"Grows on a man." Spike scooched off his chair to sit on the floor with Connor. "Wanna sip?"

"Ewwwwwww, it smells worse than piza." Stephen shook his head fast, hair flying.

"Should cut your hair."

"Why?"

"Long hair's no good for fighting. Gets you into trouble."

"Buffy's got long hair. She fights a lot. Better than anyone."

"She can get away with long hair because she's better than everyone." Spike's tone turned mournful. "She's too good for me."

"Father always said that love was when you put the other person before youself. Do you love her?"

"Yeah."

"Den be niiiiice."

"Come here, bite sized." Spike pulled the toddler onto his lap and kissed the top of his head. "You'll be a lady killer when you're older."

"Buffy says killing's baaaaad." Connor leaned back on Spike's chest as he played with the lid from Spike's bottle.

"It's real bad." Spike yawned, took another swig, and leaned his head on the chair. "Too bad we can't all be as smart as three year olds."

"When I left he was tiny." Cordelia talked while she stared at the toddler. "He'd not that big now, but he shouldn't have grown that much." She turned to Angel and slapped his chest. "What happened?"

"He got kidnapped to a hell dimension. Took Willow going dark to get him back." Angel's expression was pained as Willow still with black hair, eyes and veins, tossed an energy ball at Connor. The toddler dodged easily and Willow ruffled his hair before disappearing to go do whatever she did when she went away.

"Who kidnapped him?" Cordelia asked.

"Wesley and Holtz."

"Wesley!" Cordelia wasn't prepared for that. "That can't be right."

Connor rushed up to Cordelia and hugged her legs. "Cooooordy."

"He remembers me?"

Angel shook his head. "No, I told him about you."

"Oh." When Connor let go of Cordelia's legs, she stooped to his level. "Let's have a look at you mister." She smoothed out his hair and smiled. "How do you like it here?"

"Smells better." Connor laughed as she tickled his sides.

"I'm sure it does." She sat down with crossed legs. "So let's get to know each other. What's your favorite thing to do?"

"Fight."

"Other than fighting?"

"Cartoons." Connor pulled at Cordy's hand. "I show you my room."

Cordelia got up and followed the toddler upstairs. His room was across from Angel's and painted in varying shades of blue. But it didn't look like he slept on the bed but rather in a nest of cloth in the corner. "Why don't you sleep in the bed?"

"It better for jumping." He jumped onto the bed without trouble and kept bouncing. "See!"

"I see. But you should stop that before you get hurt."

"No."

"No?"

Connor tucked his knees up and bounced on his butt until he stilled. "Fine. Daddy said not to make you mad."

"Your daddy's a smart man." She saw that he had a television and vcr in his room with a collection of old cartoons. "Which one's your favorite?"

"Batman."

"Of course it is."

There was a kid sized punching bag in the corner made up to look like the Joker. "I can beat the Joker up better than Batman!" He flew at the bag and beat it until a seam split and the sand and stuffing poured out. "Uh oh."




Freezing rain poured down from the ceiling of the Bronze. Torchlight flickering and reflecting through the water, catching on a pale face that fleeted out of her eyesight. The music had a haunting beat timed with the thunder and driving rain. A cello moaned like a lover, calling her to the middle of the room, making her hips sway.

A body, hard and lean pressed against her back, moving with her and guiding her steps. Strong masculine hands ran down her arms until his fingers slid through hers, wrapping their arms around her torso. With a sigh, she leaned back against his chest, tipping her head to the side, waiting to hear him, but he never spoke.

Supple lips pressed along the column of her throat, teeth nipping until his tongue laved from base to just under her ear. Chills ran through her that had nothing to do with the cold, but rather heated her up. An internal flame she'd never felt before made her bold enough to turn. Cerulean eyes glittered while a mischievous smirk played on his full lips. His platinum hair curled and stuck to his forehead, and she ran her fingers through it.

"Is this a dream?" she asked.

"Let's find out." His features melted from human to vampire, but she wasn't afraid. When she tilted her head to expose her throat, he licked her neck again before sliding his fangs into a small artery. After the initial sharp pain, her body went limp as warm tingling pleasure oozed through her limbs.

The Scoobies were sitting around the table in the library researching Spike. Buffy read every word that they could find on him, a small dose of fear creeping up her spine with every new thing she learned. While the Watcher's Diaries said he'd killed two slayers, there was speculation that it was closer to a half dozen.

Willow shifted in her seat next to Buffy and showed Buffy another passage. "This one talks about his refusal to make childer. Says that he's been waiting for the right person. What if he's waiting for the right slayer?"

Buffy took the book from Willow and glanced up to see that red was seeping through the white turtleneck her friend wore. "What's wrong with your neck?" Before Willow could stop her, Buffy pulled the neck down and saw a livid vampire bite. "Willow!"

"It's not what it looks like." Willow covered the bite with her hand, feeling that it had broken open again getting her fingers sticky.

"Then what is it?"

"What?" Xander asked as he looked up from his book. "Oh, God, Wills."

"I don't know what it's from. I woke up with it and it wasn't there last night. It doesn't hurt or anything though." Willow's fingers fumbled as she tried to come up with a good way to get the topic dropped, but her mind blanked. "Spike's a more pressing problem. We should focus on him right now. Make sure we keep Buffy alive."

"Willow," Giles started, "if there's a vampire that has an invitation to your house and is attacking you in your sleep, don't you think it would be a good idea if you stayed with Buffy until we learned who that vampire is and dispatch it?"

"I'm with Giles," Buffy said. "You're staying with me for the foreseeable future."

"OK, I'll stay with Buffy." Willow curled her fingers around the edges of the book she'd been reading in ducked her head down. She read the passages about Spike siring no vampires and found that he didn't even make minions. This both heartened her and laid heavy in her mind.

She was once again in the Bronze, but this time there were willow trees with white and red blossoms lining the walls. Petals drifted down, coating the floor as more cello music weaved through her chest, pulling her to the middle once more.

Spike walked out from behind tree limbs, wearing all black in direct contrast to all the flowers. He wasn't wearing his duster or red shirt though. The clothes clung to his muscular body, and Willow's gaze was transfixed. When he stepped into her personal space, she found he wasn't much taller than her. He leaned down and kissed her lips, soft at first then with more pressure until he was coaxing her mouth to open for him.

Her fingers played with the hair at the nape of his neck, while his rested on her back, pulling her flush against him. A wind whipped her hair and dress about while Spike continued to kiss her, drinking her in like the blood he needed to live.

"Is this a dream?" he asked when he pulled back.

Willow shook her head. "I don't think so."

"I had blood in my mouth when I woke up. Scintillating temptation to find the owner of such an elixir had me out during the day. Saw you and your friends in that school library looking into me." He ran fingers over her face. "Read anything interesting?"

"All of it." Her words a mere breath, but they made the corners of his mouth turn up.

"Give us another taste?" He brought her wrist up to his mouth and kissed it the underside of it, his eyes never leaving hers. When she nodded, his face changed, and he slid his fangs into her wrist. This time the pain was sharper, but the pleasure was more intense too. Her knees wobbled, and he wrapped an arm around her waist, guiding them to the floor.

When he pulled his fangs out and returned to his human guise, Willow pressed a kiss to his bloody lips. She could taste her blood as she pulled him closer, exciting her. Electricity shot through her body as he pressed her back to the floor and rested between her legs. Their kiss was animalistic with hands grabbing and scratching with a need too primal to name.

Buffy woke up in need of the bathroom. When she came back into her room the beam from the streetlight outside made Willow's wrist gleam, a reddish black stream of blood trickling down the arm resting on her pillow. She threw the overhead on, and grabbed Willow's arm, waking her.

"Spi… Buffy? What's going on?"

"You're bleeding." Buffy twisted and turned Willow's wrist in examination. "You were bitten again. But how?"

"I don't know." And Willow didn't know. Sure she knew she was dreaming about Spike in a way that wasn't really a dream but she didn't know how it was happening.

Buffy grabbed a handful of tissues and pressed them against Willow's wrist. "We're seeing Giles first thing."

"But it's Saturday."

"Then classes won't interrupt our research." Buffy let Willow hold the tissues to her wrist. "Are you dreaming? Is there something you're not telling me?"

Across town, Spike woke from his nap with a growl. The girl had been ripped away from him. Her blood and saliva still coating his mouth did nothing to appease him. He'd gotten her name yesterday, Willow. Breaking her glanced over his thoughts, but it didn't feel right. She was worth more than that.

He pulled his shirt over his head, the fabric scraping the scratches she'd made down his back. He needed to find her, needed to talk to her when it wasn't a dream.

Every creature out that night knew to stay away from Angel as he stalked through the streets on his way to Buffy's. They'd been dreams, but they'd been real too, and he needed to get to the bottom of what was happening before it could happen a third time. He ripped through town until he was standing in front of Buffy's house. The light in Buffy's room was on, and he could see Buffy pacing while Willow's head was visible where the bed was. He climbed the tree to the porch roof and rapped the window with his knuckles.

"Angel?" Buffy asked as she lifted the pane. "What are you doing here?"

"Can I come in?"

She stepped away from the window. "Of course."

He stepped into her room and took in Willow's paler. "Willow?"

"Yes, Angel?"

"Can I talk to you alone?"

"Um, sure."

Buffy winced with jealousy. "I'll go get something to drink." She haltingly left the room.

Angel watched her leave and waited until he heard her in the kitchen before turning back to Willow. "What have you told her?"

"Huh?" Willow's confusion etched her features.

"About the dreams you're having of Spike. What have you told her?"

"Oh, not much, not even that it's Spike I'm dreaming about, so how did you know?"

"He's having the same dreams and because he's my childe, I'm experiencing them too." Angel crossed his arms and touched his lips in thought. "I thought Drusilla was the only one that could visit dreams like this. I don't understand how Spike's pulling this off, or why he'd want to do this in the first place."

"When you're saying you're experiencing these dreams too, what do you mean?" Willow asked embarrassment flushing her cheeks.

"I can taste you, feel your nails on his back as if it were mine." His eyes darkened to black pools rather than sable fires.

Willow tried to hide behind her hair. "Oh."

Angel shook his lust off. "I'm going to find him and demand an answer. Try to hold Buffy off until I know more."

"OK, Angel." Willow said, but he was already gone. "I made him do the thing. I hate when he does the thing."

Willow sighed and then took the tissues off her injured wrist. The blood was dry and spider-webbed down her arm. The punctures in her wrist were tender when she flexed and twisted her hand around, but in a pleasant way. She gently pressed on the marks and felt a jolt deep inside her abdomen.

"Does it hurt?"

"Oh! Don't scare me like that." Willow tried to shake off the startle.

"Angel left?"

"Yeah, he's checking on a lead about my vampire dreams." Willow waved her hand toward the window.

"How did he know about your dreams anyway?" Buffy asked. "How did he know you were here in the first place?"

"My guess is that it's a vampire thing." Willow shrugged. "But we should get some sleep if we're going to be in research mode all day."

"I'm not sure sleep is a good idea for you. What if it happens again and you bleed to death as a result?"

"We could watch the donuts get made at that bakery downtown."

"Stop playing with that," Buffy said as she swatted Willow's hand away from her neck and then again when it went to her wrist. "With either of those."

"Can't help it," Willow murmured as she shoved her hands in her pockets.

Buffy handed Willow the box of doughnuts. "Here, if your hands are full you can't pick at the scabs."

Willow held the box as they walked, and it did keep her from touching the bite marks, but it did it in the most annoying way.

Buffy couldn't stop looking at Willow's neck. The red puncture wounds drew her gaze until she was hyper focused on them, her slayer grace the only thing saving her from tripping and falling over obstacles. She was still staring when Willow knocked on Giles' door.

It took Giles almost ten minutes to get to the door, and his eyes were still filled with sleep when he saw the young women. "Buffy? Willow? It's not even light out yet."

"Sorry, Giles," Buffy said whipping her head up, "but this is an emergency of epic scale. Willow show him."

Willow balanced the doughnuts with one hand and showed Giles her wrist an awkward smile on her lips. "No invite, no vampire even there."

Giles ushered the girls into his apartment. "Fascinating."

"She's got scratches on her back too." Buffy lifted the back of Willow's shirt enough to show Giles the bottommost scrapes there.

He blushed and looked away when he recognized the fingernail marks for what they were. "Willow, are you, er, experiencing any pain?"

"No. No pain." Willow's face flushed brighter than her hair and Giles cleared his throat.

"Oh, dear." He went over to his bookshelf and blindly stared at the bindings until he regained his composure then picked the only book he had here at the flat that might help them. "Dreams manifesting as reality is not a power vampires normally possess. But there have been some cases."

Buffy licked her lips when Willow pushed hair behind her ear, putting her wrist and neck wounds in close proximity. When she realized what she was doing, she jolted and decided to eat a pastry. What was wrong with her? Blood and wounds weren't sexy, were they? Were they? She studied the coloring around Willow's neck wound. The purple bruising surrounding the red scabs and pink swelling reminded her of flowers and flowers made her think of blooming that led to thoughts of swelling folds and the silky skin of her thighs. She rubbed her thighs together and forced her eyes away from Willow.

"Would the two of you mind meeting me at the school library?" Giles said interrupting Buffy's dirty thoughts.

"Oh ah, sure. Hey, Willow, let's go." Buffy didn't wait to see if Willow was following when she left Giles' apartment.

Angel dragged Spike into Willy's and threw him across the room. "What are you playing at?"

Spike laughed. "Don't know what you mean, mate." He stood up and righted a stool waving a hand at Willy. "Bourbon neat."

The bartender nodded with a huge smile. "Anything for you Spike."

Barely seated, Spike fell from the stool when Angel punched him. "Don't fuck with me Spike."

He tongued his cheek and smiled at his sire. "Been awhile since you've touched me like this. Miss me?"

"Not the point. I want to know what you're doing to Willow and why."

Spike propped himself up on his elbows and tilted his head to the side. "She's just your type isn't she? Innocent with a scent of magic, like Dru had been. You afraid I'll get to her first?"

"I won't let you hurt her again." Angel sat on a stool as Spike got up and sat next to him. Willy put two fingers of bourbon in two glasses and set them in front of the master vampires.

"Haven't hurt her any more than she wants me to." Spike pulled a mostly crushed pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and lit one, blowing the smoke out his nose.

"She won't be your next victim." Angel threw back his drink.

"How fatherly of you. Think I'm just going to obey you? First I never have, and second, after the way you left us why would I want to?" Spike swished his alcohol around the glass before taking a sip.

"How are you and Drusilla anyway?" Angel asked hating that he needed to know.

"She got killed in Prague." Spike downed the rest of his drink and waved Willy over for more. "Damn mob."

"Never learned to lie low and operate under the radar."

"This wasn't on me. She got caught feeding on a kid when she was on one of her walkabouts." Spike winced at the memory. "I got there in time to see them set her on fire, and I couldn't get it out before she turned to dust. Almost didn't make it out myself."

"So you came here."

"Heard the Master had been here so that would mean Darla was here, but turns out you dusted her." Spike's jaw twitched as he filled his mouth with more alcohol. "Few of us left. Haven't heard from Penn in an age and let's not forget the sailor. He ever come back for his pound of flesh?"

"No."

"Well let's drink to family. May they never haunt us."

The vampires clinked glasses and drank the morning away in silence.




A red sun, hot dry air, a waft of sulfur on top of the stench of decay, clawing and fighting each day for survival with an unlikely family at her side, that was her heaven. This world, in all its bright color and cool breezes, tantalizing scents and easy survival, this was hell. And it wasn't always so. When it first happened it was the opposite. Acathla's dimension took getting used to, but after a few thousand years it became home. The saying was a person could get used to anything. Without equivocation she'd always agreed. But she didn't want to get used to this world again. It was soft, and she worried that it would tenderize her to be a fit meal.

"Willow!" Buffy's called from down the school hallway. "Willow, wait up!"

Willow turned to her. Buffy was still fresh and tan with a healthy glow that so many people here had. She flinched again when she saw Willow's face like she always did. The brand circumventing Willow's left eye and forking down her cheek unnerved Buffy as did the white geometric tattoos that covered her.

She rubbed the stubble on Willow's head and got her hand slapped away on reflex. "Willow, chill. It just feels good against my hand."

"What do you want?" Willow's voice had a trace of an English accent to it now.

"Nothing. I wanted to hang out with you." Buffy's apparent disquiet meant little to Willow.

"Whatevs." Willow headed toward her next class. She understood nothing in it without intense research, but it was crucial to her survival that she learn, so she did. Computers felt foreign, alien even though Willow had a vague recollection of them from when she was young.

Buffy followed her. "Do you need anything?"

"No."

"I know what would be fun: a makeover. Whatcha say? You, me, the mall all this weekend?"

"Mall?"

"Where the clothes live?"

"I have clothes." Willow looked down at her deep plum colored plated demon hide that moved and breathed well.

"One outfit. That you wear every day. Made out of demon skin and bone from hell. You need to blend. Consider it camouflage."

"Fine. We can get clothes. But I don't want to dress impractical like you do."

Buffy flinched again, and the bell rang. "I'll see you later, Will."

The library was quiet with Giles and Xander poring over books about Acathla's hell. The teen became more and more nauseous with every new thing he learned about that dimension. "How did they survive?"

Giles looked up from his book. "I don't know. I haven't found any references to lifespans in that particular hell."

"I can't believe Willow was in literal hell." Xander closed his book. "Research isn't going to help us understand her. She's not even Willow anymore."

"Xander, you can't think that way. She survived a dimension of torture and mayhem. While I'm certain that changed her, she's still Willow." Giles sighed and closed his book. "But you are right. Books will be of little use to us. We need to ask her about her experiences. Buffy was going to try to bring her here during her free period. Let us hope she succeeds."

"Yeah."

The bell rang, and the library fell into silence again. It stayed that way until the bell rang for classes to start and moments later Buffy and Willow entered the library.

Giles studied Willow. Her constant awareness of her surroundings, the way she moved silently and with a predator's grace, her weariness, all of it pained his heart. "Willow, thank you for joining us."

Willow gave a curt nod, but said nothing.

Buffy smiled. "Willow is coming shopping with me this weekend."

"Great!" Xander let himself hope for the first time in weeks. "Wills is getting her girl on."

With an awkward smile, Buffy said, "It's not like that."

"Then what's it like?"

"Camouflage."

"Well, that is also a good idea." Giles cleaned his glasses. "Willow would you be so kind as to answer some questions I have?"

"You can ask." Willow moved to a more defendable position in the library, back against a wall with an unobstructed view of everything.

"How did you measure time while you were there?"

"Spike had a pocket watch for the first few years. Daytime lasted what would be five days here, and night lasted for less than six hours. I never did the math, but we were there for more than two hundred thousand of its days."

"That's almost three thousand of our years," Buffy muttered.

"Sounds about right," Willow said. "I lost count shortly after that though. Had a book keeping track, but it was unneeded weight, so I burned it."

"You, you had books there?" Giles asked heartened by the idea.

"Not made of paper but yes."

"What were they made of?"

"Skin."

"Oh," Giles did a double take. "That makes a certain kind of sense."

"What did you eat and drink?" Xander asked.

"Flesh and blood, viscus, organs. There wasn't water there that was drinkable. But most of the demons produced fluids that would keep me hydrated and nourished."

"Eeew."

Giles cleared his throat. "Do you know why you haven't aged?"

"No."

"And the vampires. Do you know why they're immune to daylight now?"

"No."

"I see." Giles pinched the bridge of his nose.

"Willow and I have history together," Buffy said, "She remembers world history just fine."

"My family and I would talk about Earth often. Tell stories to pass the hours between battles. Early on we decided to keep it fact rather than fiction."

"What were the demons like there?" Buffy asked.

"Demons were in a word, big. But there were citizens of all shapes and sizes. There were even a few clusters of humans here and there." Willow cocked her head to the side then smiled. The door to the library swung open and three bald warrior vampires walked in, and Willow rushed toward them, jumping in the short male's arms before swinging into the woman's then lastly the tall man's. "You're just in time. It's Q and A time."

Drusilla wore her brands in spirals up her neck with white and pale pink tattoos in swirls. Her pants were red scaled demon hide with bones strung together for kneepads. Her shirt was made of black dragon leather with more bones serving as armor. Her head was smooth, and she lacked eyebrows or lashes.

Angel wore head to toe black of the same material as Drusilla's shirt. His armor was made of not only bone but rock. His head and face had stubble that accentuated the black almost tribal tattoos that covered his face and neck. His brand resembled a star on his forehead.

Spike's face was covered in white and blue tattoos that looked like words in a foreign language. His brands were lines for those tattooed words to sit on. His shirt was deep blue and plated with stone. His pants were black but different than Angel or Dru's, thicker and smoother. He also had a smooth hairless head and face.

Nothing dangled from them and at least they left their weapons at home this time. Everything about the four of them was battle ready.

"Not surprising they've got questions. But we found something more useful to do." Spike smirked at Willow. "Up for a spot of violence?"

"And here I thought we'd be bored. What's the opponent?"

"A young pup, barely a hundred with delusions of grandeur." Drusilla grabbed the information out of the air. "It's below us, but there's not much to do round here."

"You're telling me?" Willow punched Dru in the chest.

Angel took a swing at Willow but she dodged, grabbed his wrist and twisted it behind him. "Good. Don't want you getting soft. And the threats here are our size."

"Me?" Willow was incredulous. "I haven't been soft since before landing in Abaddon. And as for size, smaller is only tricky if you haven't been sparring with people your size for the last few thousand years." She jumped on Angel's back. "Buffy's taking me shopping this weekend. We should all go, we need to blend in, get camouflage. Told you she wasn't a complete idiot."

"Gee, thanks," Buffy said with a hurt eye roll.

"Shall we go, deary?" Dru asked.

"Are we stalking first?" Willow asked.

"Naturally." Spike appeared bored until Willow jumped off Angel and into Spike's arms again. "That's a good girl."

Willow twisted until she was getting a piggyback from Spike. "On to the battle!"

Drusilla and Angel walked out first hand in hand while Willow rode Spike out of the library.

"I should go with them," Buffy said as she followed. "Keep them out of trouble. I can't believe I'm saying this but I wish Faith was here."

Stalking their prey meant that Willow used a glamour to let the group blend in with the staff at City Hall. And Buffy's breath caught seeing her best friend and her ex boyfriend look the way she remembered them. Even when he wasn't blending in, Angel still pulled all Buffy's internal strings, but she hadn't even gotten him alone to converse. From what she could tell, his soul was in no danger of fleeting away again, but it appeared that he found his happiness with the other vampires and Willow.

Buffy herself was under the effects of the glamour, maturing her continence. They could slide past security and split up. Buffy followed Angel while Spike let off on his own and Willow and Drusilla took their own direction.

"Are you happy?" she asked him.

"What?" He didn't stop, Angel's mind on the job to be done.

"With Willow, and Dru, and Spike. Are you happy?"

"If I promise to talk to you later, would you let me do my job?"

"Yeah, sure. Who are we after anyway?"

"Richard Wilkins."

"The Mayor?" Buffy couldn't believe he was a bad guy.

"Yes, now shut it so we can concentrate."

Buffy recoiled from his bluntness. "What's the plan?"

"Recon. Find out what we can about him and his operation. How much of it is demonic, and who the players are and aren't." Angel gestured to a side hall. "You go that way. Meet up in an hour at the mansion."

She nodded and went down the hall he indicated.

When they were all at the mansion, Buffy noticed that there was a camp in what used to be the living room. It looked like they slept on the ground rather than beds. "Willow? I thought you moved back in with your parents."

"Kicked me out when I refused to get my tattoos removed." Willow sat on her mat. "So I agree that Wilkins is bad news. Planted a bug so I should know soon enough who knows what."

"I didn't think you used technology anymore." Buffy smiled. "It's good to see the old Willow coming back."

"As in a beetle spelled to follow conversations the Mayor has and transmit them to me." Willow cocked her head to the side. "He's talking to a troop of boy scouts."

"His perimeter is tighter than I'd have thought but it's only humans and vamps, so it shouldn't be that hard to break," Spike said as he curled up on Angel's lap.

"He's got spies all around town though, so he might already know about our family's return," Dru said as she lit the fireplace.

"It's unlikely that he knows where we were though. So he'll underestimate us, dear," Angel said as he put an arm around her when she sat next to him.

Willow lay her head in Dru's lap and Buffy felt like such an outsider. "How do you know he's not human?"

Dru leaned forward and touched Buffy's forehead, projecting images of Wilkins from a hundred years ago, then seventy-five, fifty, twenty-five. "That's how we know."

"Oh. I should call Faith and have her join us. Strength in numbers." Buffy shrugged.

"No offense, Buffy, but you'd be in our way," Angel said with a softer tone than before, even though it still had a stinging edge to it. "Faith would be too."

Willow poked Angel in the chin. "We should try to incorporate them in our trainings. Two slayers would only make our job easier if we come up against something big."

Spike chortled. "There's no such thing as big here. I haven't seen anything bigger than a Fyarl since we got back. And any one of us could deal with a herd of those. There's not much need for teamwork around here. We found a way home yet?"

"I can't even figure out how we got here, let alone figured out how to get home without Acathla. Giles destroyed our only way back to Abbadon." Willow sighed then sat up suddenly. "Anyone know what an Ascension is?"

"The Master ascended from the hellmouth, but never heard it in any other context for demons." Angel nudged Spike and Dru away. "There might be something in the library."

"We should clue Giles in anyway," Buffy said as she stood.

"I meant our library, but you should check in with Giles."

"Can we talk first?" Buffy asked her nerves cracking.

"Go ahead," Willow said. "It sounds like we've got time before the Mayor makes his big move."

"Fine, come with me." Angel walked down the hall while the others went up the stairs. Buffy followed him. He stopped in an empty room, not a stick of furniture. "What?"

"Um, you've been avoiding me. I want to know why."

"We've all been avoiding you. You tag along every chance you get though, and we don't get it. Are we really that fascinating?"

"Don't you remember?" Buffy felt tears well up.

"Remember what?"

"That we were in love?"

Angel's brow furrowed. "Huh. I guess so, but that was thousands of years ago."

"It was last year."

"Right, the time difference." He blew out a lungful of air. "Sorry, it must be hard for you. There's nothing I can do about that though."

Buffy's chin trembled. "Can't we try again?"

"I have a family."

"But, Angel… "

"But nothing. I. Have. A. Family. Now maybe you should go check in with Giles."

Her arms wrapped around her waist, Buffy left.

Xander and Cordelia were sitting in the library when Buffy showed up. "Xander told me you went out with the hell babies. How'd it go?"

"It, ah, the Mayor is a bad guy."

"Interesting, but I was talking about how you dealt with Angel and Willow and the creep twins."

"I don't want to talk about it." Buffy peered around the library. "Where's Giles?"

"Snyder called him to the office," Xander said.

"Are you really taking them all shopping this weekend?" Cordelia asked.

"I guess so. I'm not sure what I can do to make them look more normal with the brands and tattoos, but any improvement would help. Wanna come?"

"It certainly would be a challenge. OK, I'm there."




The end of the balance went unnoticed by all but a handful of creatures on Earth. A couple vampires, a witch, a key, and a defunct god were the only ones that had any idea what happened or more importantly that it happened at all.

Research started and continued for days that turned into weeks into months, years, decades, and centuries afterward in hopes to find a way to put the cork back in the bottle. Angel met final death searching for an answer, his last moments spent getting it into Willow's hands.

Dawn lay in Spike's arms, blood dripping from the smile she shone at the vampire, as Willow stuck fingers into the Key's spleen. "Gloria vis!"

Crimson flashed green and Willow, Illyria, and Spike found themselves standing in the middle of a cobblestone courtyard their already sheer clothing hiding nothing as the rain drenched them. The sound of hooves, carriages, and chatter weren't far off.

Willow hugged herself. "What the?"

"We'll figure it out later. Right now we need clothes." Spike knew this smell. They'd jumped back in time to before sewage systems.

Illyria quirked their head to the side for a moment. "I can take care of clothes for the moment." With a finger to both Willow's and Spike's foreheads, Illyria fashioned the illusion of victorian era clothing for the three of them and using the guise of Fred for the first time in several centuries. "Is this acceptable?"

Spike nodded. "Thanks, Blue."

"But how are we going to afford a place to stay until we figure out why the spell sent us here?" Willow asked as she held the bottom of her dress out of the puddles, accustom already to the feel of Illyria's tactile glamours.

"The bigger question is why we got sent back to victorian London to begin with, pet," Spike said as they led the other two through the streets.

"Pet? You haven't said that in a over a century." The witch shrugged. "Getting back into the feel of Britain, good idea in case our tech isn't working."




No sooner than the remaining members of the group stepped forward, they were blown back several yards when the largest demon bellowed a war cry. Buildings crumbled under the weight of the noise as it vibrated everything for miles. Half of L.A. was rubble and the human cries of panic and pain washed over the group, letting them know that they may not have made the right decision going after the Black Thorn.

The enemy didn't attack Angel or his crew. No, they went after the surviving humans in the vicinity. A human looking demon, or as passable as Illyria anyway, ambled up to them. Illyria had been the first to stand, and her eyes narrowed at this demon. "Vanth. I thought the Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart were beneath you. Now you lower yourself to run errands for them. Why?"

"They're bringing back the Old Ones. They'll restore both of us to our former glory and we can once again rule what is rightfully ours." Vanth cocked his head to the side as he peered down at Angel. "The Senior Partners thank you for the opportunity to start the real apocalypse. You acted perfectly in line with their predictions. And as a thank you, they are returning your lost to you. We're sure you'll enjoy hell together."

Spike stood up and poked Vanth in the chest. "Look here. This is our world."

"Not anymore." Vanth snapped his fingers and a white light flashed and instead of Vanth, a pile of bodies writhed in his place.

Illyria laughed high and maniacal. The others stared at her as she waved a hand and stopped all things around her. "Perhaps the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart aren't pointless."

She picked up one body and disappeared with it before time returned to normal.

Angel blinked, he noticed Illyria's disappearance, but then a voice he never thought he'd hear again said his name. His gaze met hers and he pulled her into his arms. "Cordelia?"

"Angel, what's going on?" Cordelia's voice was small as she tried to cover her nudity.

He shrugged off his coat and wrapped it around her. Then the others caught his eye. "Doyle? Wesley? Darla?" He assumed that Fred wasn't among them because her body was in use already.

Gunn prodded the wound on his abdomen and found it healed but still a bit sore. Spike helped him to his feet. "Thanks, man."

Spike nodded at Gunn and scowled at Darla. She smelled human and her laughter spoke to her hysteria. Doyle sat up grasping his head as he yelled in pain. Wes didn't seem fazed by anything. Deciding to be a gentleman, Spike took off his duster and wrapped it around Darla.

Cordelia pressed her face against Angel's chest and drew back at once. "You're breathing. Your heart..."

"...is beating?" Angel murmured as he pressed two fingers to his neck. "What the hell?"

Half a world away, Buffy and a platoon of slayers suddenly had to battle a demon taller than the Eiffel Tower. Before they got flattened by the behemoth, Willow teleported them to safety. This rendered the witch unconscious and with the amount of blood pouring out of her nose and ears, Buffy felt ready to pass out herself from fear. "Willow!" Buffy shook her friend but got no response. "Willow! Maub! Get help!" She shook Willow again. "Will! Come on, wake up. Where are we? What's going on? Willow!"

The slayers that weren't circled around Buffy and Willow were trying to figure out where they were and how to get help. The cavern however, had no exits. There wasn't even a crack they could exploit.

Maub, a sprite that worked with the slayers recently, collected what she could from the girls and went to help Willow. She cleaned the blood up and got the unconscious witch to swallow a healing tincture, but when she didn't waken right away, Maub knew that Willow would need much more to be revived.

"Why are you still here?" Buffy asked Maub.

"There is no way out. And my loyalty is to Willow, so I cannot leave. She is dying."

Buffy clenched her teeth and groaned before asking, "Is there anything else we can do for her?"

"There is one thing, but it will require a sacrifice."

"What kind of sacrifice?"

Maub let her glamour disappear, showing her true face. Skin whiter than a piece of paper, hair like starlight, and eyes deep black pools, Maub stared at Buffy. "There is something I need to tell you first. The Old Ones have returned. There is only one thing that will save the innocent but even then your world will never be like it was. There's too much magic in it now; no longer the remnants of what came long ago. Earth has reverted to the Hell it was in the beginning. The shanshu has come to pass. You must find the object of the shanshu and revoke their claim. To do this, they need to acquiesce, the Scroll of Abershian must be unmade, and a new prophecy weaved from the same cloth must take its place. Tell me."

"Find the object of the shanshu, revoke their claim. They need to give permission, and the Scrolls of Abershian must be unmade and then we need to make a new prophecy from those threads?"

"Yes. One last thing Slayer."

"What?" Buffy half screamed in frustration. She needed Willow to wake up.

"I give you a choice. I can awaken Willow or I can transport you and your slayers to the shanshu. Which would you prefer?"

"I thought you had to save Willow."

"I have to do what Willow would want. And she would want you to make that decision. If I cure her, some of the slayers in this cave will die to make it so, but if I do not cure her, she cannot unmake the shanshu. She will be the only person strong enough to do it. You must decide right now."

The slayers gasped, every last one of them. Several burst into sobs while others cried in silence. Those poised to offer themselves up to the sacrifice were standing with straight backs and mostly dry eyes. Buffy didn't look at any of them. She took a breath, stared into Maub's eyes, and nodded. "Do it."

"The mission is what matters." Maub closed her eyes, laid her hands on Willow's torso, and she, and a half dozen slayers, those crying the hardest, disappeared into a vapor that seeped into Willow's body. Willow opened her eyes as she flashed a brilliant white. "What the hell?"

Buffy collapsed on Willow and sobbed both in relief that her friend was alive, and in despair that it cost so many slayers their lives.




May 30th 1997, Noon, The High School Library of Sunnydale

The air crackled and static stood the hair of the librarian on end. Giles gasped when four people appeared out of nowhere. They looked straight out of one of the Mad Max sequels with metal and leather clothes. The one woman had dyed her hair and some of her skin blue, with otherworldly eyes. Another girl had her hair shaved close, looked no more than fifteen, except eyes that appeared cold and dead. The two men were very pale. One had cherry red hair and the other black, both braided where they hadn’t shaved. When they turned to face him, Giles recognized the one. “Angel?”

The four looked at him and they all had the same look as the bald one, as if ice flowed through their veins. Three of them hit their left shoulder. “What’s the year?” Angel asked Giles.

“Ninety-seven.”

“He must mean 1997. Look’s like we’re in time,” the other man said before addressing Giles. “Has your Slayer died yet?”

“I-I don’t know what you’re tal…” Giles got interrupted with Buffy and Willow walking into the library arms linked and giggling over something until they stopped shock still at the sight before them.

“We made it. This is going to suck. Again.”

“Dawn, at least this time you can talk to her first.”

“You’ve been an only child for most of your existence, Spike. Try and put yourself in her shoes.”

Spike rolled his eyes. “The only person that didn’t love her out of our merry band is Big Blue here.”

“Sentimentality is useless. I could kill her now and be done with our mission.” The blue woman talked and moved with a strange stilted cadence.

“No!” Angel’s vehemence startled Giles, Buffy, and Willow. “We have to preserve the event!”

“Angel?” Buffy’s breathy words cut through the group.

“Yes.” He replied to Buffy but looked at the others and noted Dawn’s misty expression. “Let’s leave Dawn with her sister. They need to talk.”

Before Buffy or anyone could say another word, Angel, Spike and the one called Big Blue walked out the door, surprising everyone with the silence of their movements given the amount of metal they wore.

“You’re Dawn?” Giles asked.

“Yes.”

“And you have a sister around here?” Willow asked, skirting around the counter to stand with Giles as she saw Buffy move with that I’m-a-Slayer-about-to-strike grace.

“Yes and no.”

“What were they talking about? And who are all of you? Other than Angel. I know Angel even if I don’t know what’s going on with his hair.”

“You don’t need to concern yourself. I just want to talk to you for a bit.”

Giles stepped forward weapon in hand. “You need to explain your arrival, appearance, and your relation to Angel first.”

Dawn jumped over seven feet to behind the counter and held Willow in a choke hold. “We were known as Squink when people still knew us. I guess it’s just the four of us now. There were five, but our witch died getting us here. We need to preserve a single event.” Dawn’s gaze never wavered from Buffy. “You always were pretty, no awkward stage for Buffy. We should talk in private, Giles.”

“I’m not letting him go anywhere with a demon.”

“That’s sweet, Buffy, but I’m not a demon.”

“Then what are you?”

“I’m the Key. An artifact long past its use.” Dawn stopped and laughed. “Though maybe not past it anymore. Won’t be an issue though. Giles, let’s have that talk you were so keen on.”

“You’ll let Willow go?” Giles asked as he set his sword down.

“Yes.”

Buffy dropped her stake as Dawn pushed Willow into her. In the same movement, Dawn pulled Giles into his office, closed and locked the door.

“What do you want?” Giles asked as he leaned against his desk.

“To tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me.” Dawn laughed to herself at some internal joke as her armor scraped the wood as she slid down the door to sit on the floor.

“And that is?”

Buffy sat across from Dawn with a strange sense of familiarity. Despite the crew cut, she could see Dawn’s soft features, and the family resemblance. Giles confirmed that she was a distant relative of Buffy’s, so she decided to not try and kill the armored woman. Despite her youth, Buffy couldn’t think of her as a girl. Dawn carried too much weight to be a girl. It screamed from Dawn with every economic movement and lack of emotion. She looked twelve, but it didn’t feel like it.

“How old are you?”

“Don’t know. You?”

“Sixteen.”

“That’s right. I’d forgotten how young you were when we moved to Sunnydale.” Dawn looked at Buffy without emotion. “So young, and you’re in love with Angel, right?”

“We haven’t, um, we haven’t known each other long enough for that.” Buffy looked at her hands as she twisted her fingers together.

“I hate to give you bad news but the Angel you knew is gone. Got replaced by the one I know. We replaced the old versions of us.”

“Why did you want to talk to me?” Buffy asked feeling very strange. She didn’t know Dawn but it appeared as though Dawn knew her, or had a few screws loose.

“You’re a great mom, and so very loved. You’re unforgettable. And I’m sorry I can’t be with you here longer.” With those mysterious words, Dawn stood up and walked out of the library.

“Giles?” Buffy felt a serious knot form in her stomach. “What’s she talking about? I’m not anyone’s mother. Is she crazy or something?”

Giles had been leaning in the doorway of his office for the entire exchange. “I’m not sure what she meant. But I am sure she’s here for a good reason. You should get home before you worry your mother.”

“Yeah, sure.” Buffy walked home and as soon as she got to her room dialed Willow’s number and got no answer. Not even the answering machine.

“Oh, um, hi! What...” Willow gawked as she saw who was at her door. “Angel? Sun?”

“We need to talk to you about your future,” Angel said as he brushed past her.

“Are you still a vampire?” Willow asked as the other three barged in as well.

“More or less. Look we don’t have a lot of time to get you ready. We’d hoped to have more, but you only got us back just in time.” Angel looked out the window.

“We could use some new threads, too. We stick out dressed like this.” Spike rushed up the stairs.

“You will give us quarter.”

“Um, huh? Why?” Willow looked at the blue tinted woman with fear.

“Willow, this is Illyria. And the lug upstairs is Spike. Dawn’s the saldy baldy. We need a place to stay. No one seems to remember how to ask permission.” Angel looked like he was trying not to stare at Willow.

“Oh, um, I don’t know. My parents…”

“Haven’t been around in over a year and won’t be around again in at least another. We have time to make sure they never knew we were here.”

Willow’s eyes filled with tears but she sucked up some air to stand straight. “I’d be glad of the company.”

“Good, now let’s prep you. We got a lot of skill we need to pour into you in less than a week.”

Spike returned from upstairs with handfuls of clothes and he tossed them around his group. “It’s not much, but they’ll do till we get more.”

Without thinking three of them stripped down in front of Willow. She squeaked and spun so she couldn’t see them, just to see them in a mirror, even Angel. Closing her eyes, she said, “I hope the clothes work well enough. My dad’s a bit on the chunky side and my mother dresses like an old lady.”

“They’re fine, Red.” Spike cinched his belt and looked in the mirror. “I don’t remember clothes being this ugly though.”

Peeking through her eyelashes, Willow sighed and then opened her eyes all the way. Spike wore orange and green plaid pants, with a maroon button down. His hair no longer stood out as ridiculous by itself, but blended into the rest of the silly. “Those are golf pants. Worn by old men and sometimes skater punks. And you don’t match.”

“Is there something I need to do to punk them up?”

“Shrink them, add patches and chains. Get a black tshirt.”

“Did everyone else forget how superfluous this time was?” Spike asked as he fell onto the couch.

“Says the man with fire engine red hair.” Willow sat in the easy chair head propped up on her hand as she leaned her elbow on the armrest.

“She still scoffs me. Brill.”

“Still?”

“We’ll get to that,” Angel said as he sat down. He wore her father’s oldest suit, brown, frumpy, and too short for him. It looked very out of place against the braided and narrow mohawk. “Actually we should start with how most of us know you.”

“You are our witch,” Illyria said as she stared out the window, her clothes unchanged.

“I’ve done exactly one spell. How does one spell make me a witch? Or does that make me a witch?”

“It worked, didn’t it?” Dawn said.

“Well, yeah, but I didn’t think it required being a witch.” Willow furrowed her brow. “It was to discover a witch, why would you need to be a witch to do it?”

“Because all spells take an inherent ability. And sometimes witches needed to say hi to each other.” Dawn perched on the edge of the coffee table wearing clothes from Willow’s father’s closet as well.

“Okay, so I guess I have a little witch in me, but that doesn’t explain anything. What do you mean I was your witch?”

“You sent us back in time. We’re from several hundred years in the future.”

“How many exactly?” Willow didn’t trust anything they said.

“We lost track after three.” Angel turned to look at Illyria. “Lyre, do you know how long it’s been?”

“Four hundred fifty-seven of your years.” Illyria, from what Willow could tell so far, always sounded as if everything were beneath her.

Dawn rolled her eyes. “Lyrie doesn’t adhere to our lowly time construct. You’ll get the picture and you might even get used to it.”

“It took me a decade to reclaim my old powers without, what Wesley referred to as, a nuclear meltdown. I have no desire to return to my weakened state.”

“Okaaaaaay, so why the time warp?” Willow asked confused.

Spike leaned forward, concern etching his features. “That’s not going to be easy for you to hear. But we’ll give you the choice. You can know why you’re training, or you can simply concentrate on getting control of your powers to help save the world.”

“Does the Master rise?”

“Yes.”

“Does he kill Buffy?”

“Yes.”

“And you came here to stop it?”

“No.”

“Then why are you here?”

“To make sure she stays dead,” Illyria said looking at Willow for the first time. “Should she live, a long creeping apocalypse will send this dimension into a true darkness worse than when even my kind ruled it.”

“The demons take over?”

“No. Humans do.”

“Aren’t we in control now?”

“No. Humans still share this world.” Illyria flared with anger. “But over the next few centuries, humans will hunt, and torture, and execute all with even a spark of power. Thinking successful, they turn against each other. They hunt, torture, and execute people for being other than childbearing, or being born other than a dark beige, or being other than of the Great Religion. They have eliminated so much of humanity that less than a single million were alive before we left. We are the sole chance to save the inhabitants of this planet from destroying themselves. Should we fail, there will be no sentient creatures left.”

While Willow sat there horrified, Spike and Dawn laughed. Angel even smiled. “This isn’t funny!”

Spike managed to stop laughing long enough to explain. “The future’s not funny, but Illyria being this verbose is hilarious. She hasn’t spoken this much in over a century.”

Illyria laid her gaze on Spike, but this seemed to succeed in doing nothing but making him and the others laugh harder. When they finally got themselves under control, Willow asked, “What do I need to do?”

“That’s our girl!” Dawn’s cheer rallied the men to join in a chorus of ‘For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow.’ When they stopped Dawn held a metal flask in front of Willow. “If you plan to get strong enough to do what’s needed you’ll need to drink this.”

Taking a leap of faith, Willow chugged the contents of the flask before she could taste them. The aftertaste worse than any cough medicine she’d ever taken. “Ack, that was gross.”

All eyes were on her; Illyria bored, Spike smirking, Angel passive, and Dawn’s glittering with mirth.

Seconds later, Willow felt a big difference. She felt full, but light, like a plane, made of tons of metal but able to fly. “Holy Moley.”

“Now we need to teach you how to control it.” Angel offered her his hand. “Come with us.”

Willow slipped her hand into Angel’s. “Okay.”

Spike clapped her on the back. “Lesson the first, don’t trust anyone.”

Eyes huge, Willow said, “Now he tells me.”

June 6th 1997, Sunnydale High

“Where’s Willow?” Buffy asked Xander. “I haven’t seen her since before the quake.”

“Me neither. I told you the message she left on my machine a hundred times. Nothing’s changed.” Xander opened his locker, hid his face and tried to get the courage to ask Buffy to the dance.

“Tell me again.”

He deflated, got his books, and recited the message verbatim. “Xan, hey, I’m going to be gone for about a week. I’ll be back for the dance. I’ll miss you. Both of you. See ya.”

“Was there anything strange in the background?”

“For the hundredth time, I didn’t hear anything.” He sighed. “I have to get to class.”

Later that afternoon, Xander managed to ask Buffy, “You going to the dance?”

“No date.” She unwrapped a lollipop and stuck it in her mouth.

“We could go together.”

“Oooooo, a friend date. I could be down with that.”

“So I’ll pick you up around six?” His smile took up his entire face.

“See you then! And hey, we’ll get to see Willow there! So it’ll be a three friend date which has to be better, right?”

His smile froze. “Yeah. See you at six.”

It felt like his grin stayed in the same position the entire time he got ready and made it to her door in his Uncle’s car. It didn’t move until they got to the school and saw a kid standing outside crying for his mother.

“Hey, kid? What happened?”

Willow skipped up then, her hair cut short and slicked back. She was dressed in a suit. “Hey Xan! Let’s get inside. Buffy can help the boy. Right, Buff? Thanks!” She had him inside before he could get a reply out.

“Why did you make Buffy deal with the lost kid by herself? Thought you missed us both.”

“She’s the Slayer. She’s the best person for the job, since she get him home safe. Besides, you’re the one I’ve known since kindergarten. I wanted to have the first dance just be us.”

Frowning, Xander conceded to the dance. By the time it was over he’d forgotten to be upset, until Willow ran down the hall when another quake hit, rather than getting under a support. He rushed after her and found her in the library with her palm against the floor. A circle of candles surrounded her and he didn’t understand what happened.

When what could only be The Master landed on the ground next to Willow in a shower of broken skylight, Xander tried to grab her, but she shook him off. “We got this.”

From the shadows three people Xander had never seen before, and an odd looking Angel, emerged. They surrounded the pasty bat looking fruit punch mouth vampire.

“Angelus? William? Come to join me at last?” The Master asked. “Just in time to take out the witch so we can open the Hellmouth.”

The two men put their grr faces on, and stood on either side of The Master. Xander panicked and dragged Willow off before seeing the big finish.

When he figured out no one chased them, he stopped and stared at Willow. “What was that?”

“Shh.” Her head was cocked to the side and then she squealed. “We did it! The Master’s dead!” She grinned and bounced on her toes, while Xander watched dumbfounded.

“Huh?”

“No time to explain.” She hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. Her expression turned serious. “I love you. I’m sorry but I have to go. We’ll see each other again. I promise!”

He called after her as she rushed away. “Where you going?”

“To watch the next Slayer!”

“What?” When what she said sunk in, Xander fell to the ground drained of any desire to live. When he saw men’s shoes come into view he looked up to see they belonged to Giles. “Buffy’s dead?”

“Yes.” Giles’s voice cracked. “I’m afraid she is.”

“What did Will have to do with it?” Xander asked, tears threatening.

“Nothing. She and her friends just finished what Buffy couldn’t.” Giles pulled Xander up and allowed the boy to hug him.

“I’m alone now.”

“You can come back with me to England and at least learn proper spelling and how to speak English.”

“My parents would love it. One less mouth to feed.” Xander tried to look at the bright side, but there didn’t seem to be one. He let go of Giles and they began to walk toward the parking lot.

Giles let Xander walk a few paces ahead of him, hiding his tears.

When Willow had a chance to be alone, she let herself break down. Her grief consumed everything. It took her months to get back to training. So much power, and no control or knowledge. It scared her and she needed to not be afraid. She no longer had Buffy to help protect her against the darkness.




Willow screamed as Spike bit her neck, breaking the skin and sucking the blood down his throat. But something was wrong. The music he'd turned all the way up was gone and there was nothing more than the whimpers of the girl below him. He opened his eyes as his mouth stopped moving and rest against her skin. He couldn't see anything. He sat back on her legs and noticed that there was no longer a bed beneath them.

Her screams were even more frantic now than when he'd first attacked her. He might not be able to see, but his hearing was just fine and he slapped her across the face. "Shut up."

To his surprise she punched him. "You shut up. No, tell me what's going on. Am I dead?"

"No. You must have done some kind of magic. Can you see anything?"

"No. And I didn't do anything. Get off me. I need to think." She didn't wait for him to move, but rather pushed him away as she backed out from underneath him. "Oh, dizzy."

In an attempt to grab her shoulder to keep her steady he grabbed a breast.

"Hands off, mister." She hit his hand away.

"Not like there's much there though is there?"

"I don't have to sit here and take that." She stood up and walked away. "I wish there was some damn light."

A small blue orb appeared in front of her and cast a gloom on the abyss around them.

"Why don't you wish us home."

"Like I'd set you loose." She snorted. "I wish we were in a dense forest."

Their surroundings changed to match her wish. Tall trees, conifers like in the northern mountains, towered over soft needle covered ground. But it was still dark. Until Willow threw the orb up into the air. "Let there be light."

It acted like a sunrise of many pastel colors casting long shadows. Spike looked straight into this world's sun. "Breathtaking. Ah, er, not that I breathe."

"I'm thirsty. Are you thirsty? Uh for water I mean. Goddess I wish you were human."

Spike grabbed his chest and didn't understand why it was so tight and constricted.

"Breathe you idiot."

He gasped in a lungful of air. "Witch! Undo this!"

She stuck out her tongue at him. "No. I don't think so."

"I wish I were a vampire again." But he still needed to breathe and the blood still on his tongue started to make him nauseous. "Damn you, witch! If you don't… "

"If I don't make you a vampire, you'll what? Kill me?" Her hands were on her hips now. "Isn't that what you were about to do anyway? So what do I have to lose? And given that you may be right and I created this place, and I control everything here, you might want to be a bit nicer to me."

"Or you'll what?"

"Turn you into a flower and pick you."

"You wouldn't dare!"

"You'd make a nice rose, red with spike like thorns." She held up her hand with her fingers ready to snap.

"Fine," he growled. "I'll play nice. It would help if I weren't so damn bloody sober though."

"Whiskey?" she asked with an overly pleasant smile.

He raised an eyebrow at her then rolled his eyes. "Please."

"I want Spike to have a never ending glass of whiskey and a copy of his favorite book." Willow winked at him before walking off.

In Spike's hands appeared a tumbler of whiskey and the Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe. "How did you know I had a favorite book?"

"You're what? Two hundred years old?"

"So?"

"You're kidding me, right?" She made an indelicate noise in her throat as she rolled her eyes. "You lived before television and radio, and you're a vampire. What else were you going to do all day?"

"Shag."

"Well even that can get boring." She turned away and winced as she touched her wounded neck. "I wish this were healed already and my clothes weren't stained."

The wound and the stains disappeared in less than a second and Spike was now thinking of all this world could provide for them. "Hey wish me Drusilla, yeah?"

"I wish a human Drusilla were here, and a human Oz." Willow looked around expectantly but nothing happened. "Or how about just Drusilla and Oz?" Still nothing.

"So there are limits on what you can wish. We'll have to test those limits now won't we?" Spike sipped his drink and nodded in approval. "This is top shelf."




"There will be no having of any kind…"

But Spike had other ideas as he sank his fangs into Willow's neck, just shy of taking a chunk from it. He used his thumb to push blood from the corner of his lips into his mouth. "What was that, love?"

It had hurt so bad she couldn't even scream, but tears streamed down flushed cheeks. "Why?"

"Because, you don't tell me what I can and cannot do. And the attempt makes you mine."

The rush of magic laced blood sobered Spike in seconds and that sobriety allowed him to see how pathetic he'd been. Dru never stayed gone long. He knew that their shared persecution during their human lives in London bonded them beyond Drucilla's surface fickleness. Spike cupped Willow's jaw and ground his thumb over her lips. "Gotta break you in before my goddess comes to her senses."




Willow smiled at the shop keeper when she entered the magic store. She'd finally found the right spell to fix everything. She'd go back in time to warn Buffy and Angel that he could lose his soul preventing all the badness of the last several months. Buffy would still be here and so would Angel.

Today the spell and tomorrow the haircut followed by a date with Oz. She hummed as she picked up the supplies she needed. "Do you have any blessed jet?" Willow asked when the shop keeper asked her if she needed help.

The woman peered into Willow's basket. "Time travel? Those spells require a lot of concentration and power. Are you sure you're up for that?"

"I am. And this is a matter of life and death."

"Let's get you the right supplies then. Blessed jet is a good start, but you should also add some tiger's eye to help with concentration." The shopkeeper walked around the store picking out everything Willow would need then rang her up. "That'll be fifty-six twenty-four."

Willow paid. "Thank you."

Two hours later and Willow was setting up the spell in the chemistry classroom. The door flew open and the tiger's eye flew out of her hand as she whipped around to see who was there.

"Spike!" She tried to run out the other door, but he caught her and slammed her against the wall.

"You're going to do a spell for me. Make it right again." The stench of whiskey hit her face with every word.

She nodded emphatically. "I'll do whatever you want. What kind of spell?"

He let her drop back onto her feet. "We're going back in time. You're taking me to Prague and we're going to get me and Dru out of there before the mob gets her."

Tears pricked her eyes. The spell could only be done once, and she would lose her chance to warn Buffy and Angel. But what choice did she have? Spike would kill her if she refused. "I need something personal to get us there. Something from that time."

Spike pat himself down and pulled a tarnished ring out of his pocket. "Will this do?"

"It's a little small, and if we're both going we both need to be touching it when working the spell."

"What if I got a matching ring?" He pulled a larger tarnished ring out of the same pocket.

"Th-that should work." She pushed her hair behind her ear and walked over to where she had the spell set up. When she ripped a page out of the book, he grabbed her wrist.

"What's this then?"

"It's the spell to return. You can only do these spells once and we need that to get back to this time."

He wrenched it out of her grip and read it over. When he was done he crumpled the paper and lit it on fire. "I'm your only way back. Call it insurance so you don't try to leave me behind." He shoved the ring on her finger and shoved her into the table. "Let's get started, shall we?"

With a nod she slipped her arms through her robe, something that had been in her mother's family for centuries. It was a black wool cloak that she'd been using as a ceremonial robe. She clasped it at the collar with an emerald and sapphire brooch with trembling fingers. "Keep the time and place you want to go to in your mind. If you don't concentrate we could end up anywhere in the past. Maybe we should wait until you're sober."

"I'm fine. Do the spell." He snarled at her until she started to chant.

She pinched herbs over the flame as she recited the spell, held the jet over the same flame until she said the last words. There was a flash and another punching her back into Spike.

At once she landed on him and they were a tangle of limbs. It was a lot darker now and when she scrambled off him, she hit wet stone. The old buildings didn't look like pictures of Prague she'd seen. "Where?" She looked at Spike. "Where are we? When are we?"

"Not a clue, pet." He got to his feet, and she stood as she tried to figure out where they were.

"Spike? What were you thinking about during the spell?"

He growled. "I concentrated on Prague like you told me to but I kept thinking about how Angelus ruined Drusilla. How he was just as much of a prat alive as dead. Darla used to talk about how magnificent he was before she turned him."

A man rode by on a horse, wearing short breeches. Spike and Willow watched him until he was out of sight. "I think you sent us to when Angel was still human. I can't remember anything other than Ireland in the eighteenth century somewhere."

"Galway. And Darla turned him in 1753." Spike said on a groan.

"Well then we're in Galway sometime before she turned him, but after he was born, I think." This would suck, but she took a deep breath then asked, "Can we just go home now?"

"We need spell ingredients first, but yeah, we can leave as soon as we get them." Spike kicked a rock. "Need to find an inn."

She covered her head with the hood of her cloak and wrapped her arms around herself to hide her jeans and sweater. "Which direction should we go?"

He turned around and then pointed. "This way."

"You should button up your duster." She kept at least a foot between them. This was hell to her. Spike always had to ruin everything.

He did as she suggested.

The sun was about to come up when they finally found an inn. "Let me do the talking, Red."

"Yeah, sure, whatever. I just want to sleep for a month."

They entered to the smell of food Willow couldn't place. Spike saw a man near the fire, and said, "Good sir, would it be possible to rent a room?"

"Aye, it would." The man got up and looked them over with a suspicious eye. "Where do ye hail from?"

"England."

"I'm Ian, and you'll have to take the only room we have left. The festivities leave little room." He opened a book and dipped a quill in an inkpot. "What be your names?"

"William and Willow Ashdown."

"And what a handsome couple you make." Ian was staring at Willow's brooch. "I didn't think to offer, but we do have a larger room if you have the means."

Spike raised an eyebrow and followed the man's eye. "The smaller room is fine, I'm sure."

"If a ya say so. Would your luggage be outside?" Ian asked coming round the counter.

"Our luggage was destroyed during the journey here. We'll need directions to a fast modiste."

"No need. My wife Brigid is right quick with a stitch. Makes handsome clothes, she does." He handed Spike a key. "I'll have my wife see you to your room and she can get your measurements." Over his shoulder, Ian shouted for his wife to bring her measuring supplies.

Ian's wife appeared from a back room with a well worn tape in hand. She was young, not much older than Willow by the looks of her, much younger than her husband. "Yes, Ian?"

"These customers be needing some new clothes as fast as ya can make 'em. All theys got is whatcha see. Show 'em to the small room while you're at it." Ian sat back near the fire and picked up some wood and a knife.

Willow yanked Spike's arm and hissed in his ear, "I'm wearing jeans."

"So am I. It'll be fine, trust me." Spike opened the door when Brigid stopped.

"How many dresses and suits will ya be needin'?" Brigid asked as they filed into the tiny room.

"Three of each. And is there a decent cobbler in town?" Spike closed the door and Willow felt like she would suffocate for how small the room was. The bed took up most of the space. There was a nightstand on one side and a wardrobe on the other. Sun streamed in through cracks in the shutters. And before either of them could stop her, Brigid threw the shutters open all the way.

"More than one, sir. But I always go to O'Connor's. His last the longest in me experience."

Spike wasn't listening because he was staring at his hands in the dawn. "Bloody hell."

"Sp-William!"

"What is it sir?" Brigid asked in worry.

His brow furrowed as he noted his ring. It was melted into his skin. "Just one of my rings are missing," he said absently. He grabbed Willow's hand, and they both stared at the ring fused to her finger.

Willow fluttered her hand away. "We'll talk about it later."

"Right then. We still need to have clothes." Spike turned to the seamstress. "Who would you like to measure first?"

"Dunna matter to me, sir."

"Before we take our cloaks off, I need to tell you that our luggage was destroyed during our journey here. Our clothes aren't what you would call proper."

"I'll not judge. Off with them so I can get an idea of what I'm workin' with."

Willow shrugged and slipped her cloak off as Spike tossed his coat across the bed.

"I can see why you need me to hurry. There might be a dress and suit all made that'll just need taken in. I can have those to you by the end of the day. Would that be good?" Brigid posed Willow so she could measure.

"That would be grand." Spike tried to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.

It took literal biting of her tongue to keep Willow from asking a lot of questions. She wanted to know why they needed three outfits and did she have to give up her sneakers? How long were they going to be stuck here?

When Brigid finally left, Willow crossed her arms over her chest. "How long are we going to be here?"

"You think getting all your supplies will be easy? Remember the time you're stuck in, Red. Some of those items you used to get us here would get you killed. We'll leave the second we can, but that might be longer than either of us like."

"I'm tired."

"Me too, love."

"You take the floor." Willow toed off her shoes.

Spike grabbed her by the hair and wrenched her head to face him. "If anyone takes the floor it'll be you." He let her go. "But I'm willing to share."

She fought back the tears. The bed wasn't that big, and she'd have to sleep with him pressed up against her if they didn't want to fall off. But the floor had large splinters sticking out of the rough wood. Not looking at him, she climbed into the bed.

He closed the shutters and slipped in next to her. After some awkward attempts at getting comfortable, he faced her toward the wall, spooned around her and held her around her waist while his other arm was under her head.

Her hand in front of her face with a small spot of light from a crack in the shutters lighting it, Willow studied the ring. The pattern was demolished, and the surface was smoothly rippled tapering into burnt looking skin. It didn't hurt, but she'd never be able to get the ring off. It was on her left ring finger as if permanently marrying her to Spike. Until now she'd gone through everything as if it were a dream, but this was real. She was hundreds of years in the past with a vampire as her only way to get back to her time. She cried herself to sleep with Spike saying nothing of it.


It was dark when Willow opened her eyes. She couldn't see a thing, but she knew she was alone… or at least alone on the bed. "Spike?"

Nothing. She got off the bed and felt her way around. On the nightstand there had been a candle. She got it lit and saw the wardrobe open with a dress hanging in it. It was a pale green with lace edges. She looked in the open drawer and saw it stuffed with undergarments. She went through them and couldn't figure out where to start. Did the corset go on first? Wasn't there a gown that went under that?

She hadn't figured it out when Spike returned. He was wearing a white shirt under a vest that matched her dress, white short breeches, stockings and his combat boots. His hair was soft and tousled, no longer rigidly slicked back. He appeared pensive.

"Spit it out." Willow continued to try to make heads or tails of the clothes.

"I ran into human Angel."

Her head shot up. "What?"

"He's in the pub across the street. And it got me thinking. What we stopped him from being turned? He'd never be able to take Dru from me." Spike absently sorted through her clothes and tossed her the undermost dress.

"Turn." She twirled her finger at him.

Spike didn't argue and turned his back. "We'd have to stay longer. But Angelus was always a bastard and the world would be better without him, yeah?"

Willow undressed and pulled the shift over her head, smoothing it down her body. The full gravity of what he said cut through her brain. If Angelus isn't turned then neither is Drusilla. Angel had saved her life sophomore year. She swallowed the lump in her throat. Should she save him or let countless people die so she could live? "Sounds good. We save Angel. Sure." She hoped he didn't hear the quiver in her voice. "How am I supposed to get this thing on?"

He turned and said, "Here, I'll help you. Corsets are a two person job." She already had it around her waist, she just couldn't lace the damn thing. He turned her toward the bed. "Hold onto the bed frame."

"This is going to suck isn't it?"

"Yep." He pulled the laces tight then tighter then tighter still. When she gasped, he pulled them even tighter before tying them off.

"This hurts."

"It's supposed to." He helped her into the rest of her skirts and then finally the dress. It buttoned up the back.

"How should I wear my hair?"

He knelt on the bed and pat the bed in front of him. "Hand me a pins when I ask."

"You know how to do women's hair?"

"Vampires. No reflection, who do you think did Dru's hair and makeup?" He twisted her hair around and then up. "Pin."

She handed him pins until he said she was presentable. "Did you find out the year?"

"Seventeen fifty two."

"We're going to be stuck here for a year?"

"More like eight months."

She sighed. Eight months of keeping her resolve to die for the greater good sounded like torture. "We can't stay in the inn that long, can we?"

"No, it would be suspicious. But I sold your brooch and we've got enough to live high on the hog for eight months or be comfortable if we need to stay longer." He jingled a pouch at her. "We're looking at a cottage tomorrow."

"Do you have a plan on how to save Angel?"

"His name's Liam right now, but all I can think is that we need to insinuate ourselves into his life and when the time comes, keep him out of alleys." Spike drank her in. The corset pushed up her breasts and with the dress as low cut as it was he felt his trousers get tight. He didn't want to tell her that they would be around for at least fifty years. Easy for him, since he born in the Victorian era, but a little computer hacker would have trouble with it. "You hungry?"

"No."

"Me neither."

"Should we go to the pub then?" She asked as she stretched trying to make herself comfortable in these clothes.

"Stay with me at all times. It's not proper for a lady to be out at night without an escort. And certainly not in a pub." He jumped off the bed and offered her his elbow. "Shall we?"

"Shouldn't we come up with a story? He's going to ask us questions about our lives at some point if we get friendly with him. We should get our facts straight first."

"Good point. We're married. We have the matching rings melted to our skin, so we're stuck with that. Though men don't take rings in this age, but it's the only explanation that makes any sense."

"So why are our rings melted onto us then? Evil parents that were afraid we'd try to leave each other without a permanent reminder that we belong to each other?" Willow sat, but the corset meant having to keep her posture perfectly straight and it still dug into her lap.

"That's not a bad story. The burns are healed, so this was some time ago, so we were young when we were married. But now we get on well. We've found solace in each other now that we're away from them." Spike leaned against the door. "Liam would find that fascinating. And he'll hit on you. He was always a womanizer. Ever attracted to the lout?"

"No. So if he hits on me what should I say?"

"Say nothing. Slap him. I can take it from there." Spike raised an eyebrow, "And don't forget to breathe. You don't have a heartbeat and you stopped breathing when you fell asleep, I assume it's a side effect of the spell. But people notice if you don't breathe."

"That explains why you do it. And yes, it's a side effect of the spell. I'm essentially frozen. So are you. Our hair and nails won't grow, we don't need to eat, and we can't be killed. So at least there's that. We don't have to explain why you never go out in the day."

He picked up his pack of cigarettes from the nightstand and lit one up. "Going to miss these when they're gone. Cigarettes don't get invented any time soon. Wait, we don't need to eat? But can we eat? People might notice if we eat nothing."

"No. We can't. Well, we can chew and swallow but our bodies will reject the food and it comes back out the way it went in."

"What about drinking?" he asked, scowl on his face.

"I assume the same. Maybe we should try before we try to meet him at a pub?"

Spike drank several gulps of water straight from the pitcher. The water didn't come up immediately, so they waited. "I don't think drinking's a problem."

"It might come back up later."

"We'll risk it. We need to worm into his life sooner, not later." He offered her his elbow again, this time she took it.

"Ashdown?"

"My human last name."

"And here I thought it was Pratt."

"Fine it's my mother's maiden name. But I can't go around with the last name Pratt."

Willow giggled her nerves. She could pretend ease with Spike but he still terrified her. "I won't breathe a word to anyone."

Spike and Willow entered the pub and she scrunched her nose in disgust. "Woah, they stink so bad."

"You're telling me? At least I don't need to feed." He led her to a table near Liam. He sat and pulled her onto his lap. "Wench! We'll have a pitcher!"

Willow wrapped her arms around his neck and tried to swallow her apprehension of a vampire being this close to her neck. She plastered a smile on her face, purposely crinkling the corners of her eyes in an attempt for it to sell better. She bent to whisper in his ear, "What should we talk about?"

He grazed her nose with his and was proud of her for not flinching. His cheek skimmed across hers as he whispered back, "Just laugh like we're sharing a sexy joke."

She did her best to act the part when he kissed her collarbone. It tickled and now the laugh was genuine. "William!" She playfully batted at his chest.

"Look at him," Spike said in her ear. "He's not a bad looking bloke, is he?"

"I never really thought about it." She said as she examined Liam. "I like compact men, and he's so broad and tall."

"But he's got enticing angles. The way his eyebrows slant forward into the slope of his nose. His lips are soft and demanding, but quick with a smile. With his shirt open like that you can tell he's in fine shape, well toned and a narrow waist." Spike breathed the words to her.

Willow found herself hypnotized by Spike's description of Angel. "He's so happy. I don't think I've ever seen him this free."

"We need to keep him happy and occupied if we're going to save him. Thoughts on how we might do that?" His tone was suggestive.

"Spike, I've never, and I don't think I can do that with him. He's Buffy's boyfriend."

"Not yet he's not. And you should flirt with him. Give him the illusion that he has a chance. If we do it right, we can keep him engaged for years. He's always been the same. Wants what he can't have." Spike didn't mention that Angelus usually took who he wanted but he'd spend months trying to ensnare them with charm first.

Liam was ogling them, sizing them up as his mouth curved up with a seductive smile. Her breath hit Spike's ear. "I'm not sure it's me he's looking at."

"He was always an all inclusive scoundrel. Shall we make a game of it? See which one of us can string him along the longest?" Spike licked his upper teeth as he caught Liam's eye, his leer undisguised.

Willow rested the side of her head on the top of Spike's caught up in the game. "You're on." But she had no idea how to appear alluring, and her brief confidence disappeared. Spike sensed this and suddenly dipped her back and up, and she howled laughter, heaving her bosom and flushing her face.

Right after the wench sat two mugs and a pitcher of ale in front of Spike and Willow, Liam transferred his glass to their table and sat across from them. "Haven't seen the two of you before? Ya here for the festival?"

"We didn't even know there was one," Willow was still smiling as Spike poured her ale and handed her the mug. "Thank you, William. Always a gentleman." She took a good sized drink and sighed. It was strong and room temperature but tasted like sunshine, warming her in contrast to how cold she'd become since doing the spell. "My name's Willow, what's yours?"

"The name is Liam, m'lady. It's rare that a woman of your standing comes into a place like this ready to have a good time. Would this William here be your husband?" He helped himself to their pitcher.

"This is my wife," Spike said as he nipped at her jaw eyes still on Liam. "She's a pretty thing isn't she?"

"She is at that. And it would be a shame to not give such a handsome couple a tour of the town. But first let's enjoy some mead, and get to know one another." Liam gulped some ale. "Mead would be better. Would you like me to order you some?"

"Why not, mate?" Spike said as he bounced Willow with his knee.

"So, Liam, regale us with stories from Galway," Willow said with a smile she hoped didn't seem as forced as it felt.

"I'll not bore you with anyone else's, but I'm sure you'll find mine fascinatin'." Liam winked at her and she blushed. "Where should I start?"

"The beginning is usually best, don't you agree, William?"

"I do." He winked at her as well.

"Well then you'll be wanting to hear about my youth. And it was quite a time too, learning how to ride horses and charm women… " Liam told outrageous tales about his childhood as a prankster and budding womanizer. None of it funny to Willow, but she laughed when Spike did.

When she should have been drunk, Liam asked her to dance and Spike pushed her into him. "Dance with the man. I'll lean back and watch my beautiful wife."

"I don't know how to dance," she hissed at him.

"Let me teach you," Liam said with a slur.

"Um, OK. I mean alright." Willow took his hand.

Liam swung her around and pressed against her, holding her one hand out and twirling her through the other dancers. It was anything but graceful, and she started to feel sick to her stomach. She'd barely drank. A couple mouthfuls and that was all before pretending to drink, and now she worried that it was going to come up. Willow tried to extricate herself from Liam, but he was having none of it. She looked to Spike in hopes of some assistance but he wasn't there. Great, he was probably throwing up, which meant she wouldn't be far behind.

"I'm going to be sick."

"Ya dunna look sick. You're lovely."

"You're drunk. And I need to get out of here." She pushed at him until he lost his balance. They fell but she managed to scramble out of the pub as Spike was reentering. "Keep him busy."

Spike nodded and hollered for Liam. "Mate! What'd you do to my wife?"

"The delicate thing is ill from the mead. She shouldn't be drinkin' like a man." Liam slapped Spike on the shoulder. "Shall I fetch her for you?"

"Sure, why not." Spike rolled his eyes when Liam stumbled out of the pub. With a sigh, Spike followed. Liam was probably going to get sick as well, someone sober should be there. Outside he saw Willow wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, smile on her face.

"Sp-William! That wasn't bad. Where's Liam?" she asked.

Spike peered into the gloom and saw Liam bending over a small wall. "Let's give him a minute."

She saw what he did. "Yeah, he smelled bad enough before he threw up, we should let him air out before getting too close."

He burst out laughing. "Didn't know you had a sense of humor, love."

For the first time since arriving the stress lifted and she giggled, tried to stop, failed, then joined Spike's mirth. Maybe she would pull this off. What did she have to fear? Spike couldn't hurt her. Why not have fun with the time she had left?

Liam stood up straight, promptly fell backward and began to snore.

"How much did he drink?" Willow asked.

"The entire pitcher of mead, and all but two mugs of the ale. Plus whatever he had before we got there." Spike cocked his head to the side. "We should get him home, shouldn't we?"

"If we knew where he lived, I'd agree. But you're right. We can't leave him there." She looked up at her pretend husband. "Think they'd upgrade our room this late?"

Spike saw that the inn was dark. "Doubtful. Let him sleep it off on our floor?"

"That might be our only option. Can you carry him yourself?"

"I can. But I don't want him that close to my nose."

"I say we get him inside and wash him down. You did get soap today, yes?" she asked.

"Of course." Spike saw that she wouldn't be swayed. "Fine, we'll do it your way. But you owe me for this."

"You still owe me for kidnapping me and getting us stuck in the land of gross."

"This would be so much easier if I were drunk."

"How so?"

"Ever been drunk?" he asked as he picked Liam up and slung him over his shoulder.

"No."

"Yeah, you've probably never done anything you weren't supposed to." Spike had to heft Liam back up on his shoulder more than once, but got him into their room before dropping him on the floor with a thud. "You can wash him."

"At least help me get his clothes off. Nevermind, I don't want his clothes off." Willow stepped back. "I don't have a choice do I? It's either disrobe and wash him, or try to live through the bog of eternal stench."

Spike lit a candle and stripped off his clothes. "Make it fast. It's worse for me than it is for you."

Willow turned her eyes to the ceiling. There was not a chance she could sleep in the same bed as Spike if he was naked. Daring a glimpse she saw that he left on his breeches and sighed in relief. She looked at Liam. He wasn't Angel or Angelus. This man was a totally different creature.

She struggled to get his shirt off, then his shoes, and finally she peeled off his stockings. With conscious effort she stopped breathing. It helped. Spike lit a cigarette as he watched her wash Liam. The soap's scent was strong but clean as she lathered it over Liam's chest and arms. She scrubbed his fingernails and armpits while making a face. She wiped off his face and neck, getting behind the ears. When she looked at his feet, her face crumpled. "Spike? Couldn't you help a little?"

"You're almost finished." He flicked his ash on the nightstand.

"I hate you."

"I don't care."

"Stupid pain in the ass vampire," she muttered as she scoured Liam's legs and feet. "If you want to get the rest, that's on you, but I'm not taking off his pants."

"Come here and let me help you out of that get up." Spike held his cigarette between his lips as he unbuttoned her dress. She slipped out of it and the petticoats. He untied and loosened her corset. She left on her shift and crawled onto the bed, not tired but with nowhere else to go.

"Spike, what are we doing?"

"What do you mean? We're saving Liam's life."

"But why would you want to? Isn't he how you get to be you?"

Spike realized there was no fooling her completely. She knew he wasn't stupid. "I have a way around that."

"What?"

He sat on the bed and pulled his legs up into a pretzel, the mirror of her at the foot of the bed. "At first I was going to turn Dru, but then found out I can't feed, so I decided I'll have someone else turn Dru, so she can then turn me. Darla's the one that pointed her out to Angelus, so I don't see why I couldn't get her to do it. Just got to steer her in the right direction."

"So you plan on sticking around for what? A century? Isn't Dru turned in the 1860's? We're more than a hundred years away from that."

"You're not as upset as I thought you'd be, why?" He narrowed his eyes at her.

She played with the fringe on the blanket and couldn't meet his gaze for fear of falling apart again. "I'll be dead by then."

"How do you figure? You said we were frozen until we go back to our time."

"Angel saves my life in that future. I'd have been gassed to death if it weren't for him. So without him there to do that, I won't be here after we save him."

Spike frowned. "Then why did you agree to save him?"

"Because saving him saves countless others. That's more important than my little life. I mean I'm a nobody, but what if saving Liam, saves someone who invents the cure for cancer or something?" She sighed. "I don't want to talk about this."

He butted his cigarette out on the nightstand. "Willow? Look at me."

She raised her head and met his gaze. "What?"

"What if there's a way to do both?"

"What do you mean?"

"You and your little friends were working on cursing the bastard a few months ago, yeah?"

"Yeah. So? What? You want to let him get turned and then curse him right away?"

"That's what I'm saying. I'm good at getting what I want. So why don't I get that orb you need and you work on remembering the spell."

"Even if I could remember the spell, he won't be the same Angel. There's no guarantee that he'll go to Sunnydale and be there to save me."

"We tell him to be there." Spike saw her skepticism. "He'll owe us won't he?"

"There's still a loophole in the curse. What if he gets happy and loses his soul? Without the burden of guilt, what would stop him from being happy right away? Just telling him to wallow and brood wouldn't do any good. Spike, I don't know why you want to help me, and I thank you for trying, but I was up half the day trying to think of a way to have it all and trust me, there isn't one."

"Cheer up, Red. We've got eight months to figure it out and with you being big with the books and me with my common sense, shouldn't be too hard."

"Since when are we friends?"

"Well, since you were such a good sport about flirting with our boy over here. Since you decided my wants were more important that your life."

"That's not exactly how I'd put it." She glued her eyes on the melted ring on her finger.

Spike tilted her chin up. "Since we're stuck here together then. I think we could get on quite well since I don't have to feed and you don't have to worry about what your friends think."

Willow offered him a quivering smile. "Thanks, Spike."

"Think nothing of it. If we don't find a way to save everyone, then we'll just have to make these the best eight months of your life."

"Because 1753 Ireland is such a party place."

"It could be. We could make it be. You just need to stop being so stiff."

"That's the corset."

He raised an eyebrow at her.

"OK, it's mostly the corset."

His expression got more incredulous.

"Fine. I'll try to loosen up."

"That's the spirit."

They beamed at each other kicking off a partnership, maybe even a budding friendship.

Night turned into dawn and into day with Willow and Spike never getting tired, so they swapped stories until Liam groaned.

"Think he's finally waking up?"

"Dunno. Liam? You awake?"

"No need to shout," Liam said with a grunt.

"Hungover." Willow grinned at Spike.

"Hungover." He grinned back. "How'd you like some runny eggs and greasy bacon?"

Liam groaned again.

"Anyone going to worry that you didn't make it home last night?" Willow asked not able to hide her amusement.

"Father will be angry. Mother will be too. Sarah might worry." Liam pushed himself up and took in his surroundings including everyone's state of undress. "Did I miss all the fun then?"

Spike sucked in his cheeks before he spoke. "You mean you don't remember defiling Willow?"

"And William?" Willow asked getting in the spirit.

Liam jumped to his feet and sputtered, "I didna, I wouldna. You breathe a word to anyone and I'll string the both of you up till your necks stretch."

Willow couldn't contain her laughter, and Spike tossed the pillow at her. "Ruin all the fun, why don't you?"

"Sorry but his indignation is hilarious." Willow tossed the pillow back at him.

"It's not amusing." Liam glowered at them.

Spike cleared his throat to stave off his own laughter. "It was just a joke. Lighten up, mate. Nothing happened. We didn't know where you live, so we brought you here and washed you up."

"We'll give you a coin for breakfast or rather lunch if it'll make you feel better." Willow tried to keep the smile under control but failed.

"No we won't, but we'll take you out for a drink tonight if you like."

Liam chewed the inside of his cheek while he considered their offer. Willow was ravishing in her shift and with her hair down. And William was of good humor to take his wife's joke as such. They were disgraceful, but so was he. "Drinks it is. Where might my clothes be?"

"They're over there." Willow pointed to the corner. "You should wash yourself from time to time. You'd be much better company if you did."

"How could I not take such a lovely lady's advice." He took her hand and kissed it.

"Get home and set your family's minds at ease. We'll meet you at the pub at dusk." Spike winked at him.

Liam scowled but didn't say anything until he was dressed. "I'll be seein' ya tonight then." And he was out the door.

"This is going to be a scandal won't it?" Willow asked. "I mean someone is sure to know he slept here last night."

"Wouldn't be fun otherwise." Spike lit up a cigarette and frowned when he realized it was the last one. The idea of a pipe made him shiver in disgust. "Shouldn't we try to sleep?"

"I'm not even remotely sleepy. Are you?"

"Nah. So what will we do to pass the time?"

She rolled her eyes at his leer. "We should find a bookstore after we see that cottage. With no television or internet, what else are we going to do with our time? And don't even suggest what you're thinking about to suggest."

He pulled a mock innocent face. "I would never."

Willow snorted. "Let's just get me dressed."

"I'd rather take off… "

"Shut it."

"Spoilsport."

William and Willow's cottage was modest, but suited them. With not needing sleep anymore, Willow worked with the town's blacksmith until they turned iron into steel. Her first purpose for this was to make springs for more comfortable furniture. Her pretend husband helping with the heavy labor. Spike taught the men at the pub how to play poker and blackjack with his homemade set of cards. Willow helped with that since she learned how to play both games from Jesse's father when she was twelve. Spike also started a fight club of sorts. He taught the men how to fight better, and then they had matches that people would gamble on, naturally. They had a stash of money that would keep them for a long time between Willow's 'inventions' and their gambling winnings.

In the matter of six months they had turned the port town into the most sought location in Ireland. Word spread fast about the niceties made there and how much fun could be had there.

Spike didn't care what happened to the timeline. It made no difference to him, and Willow said it didn't matter since this was a different universe than the one they left anyway, so they made changes as they saw fit. Everyone talked about them. Some thought Willow's science was witchcraft, but as soon as a man was shown capable, they would allow new methods of doing things. Others thought Spike with his white hair and pale skin was a devil. They never changed their minds on that one. But it never seemed to matter what anyone believed there were enough people grateful for the changes the rest were drowned out.

Their relationship with Liam Tierney was called into question often. The three of them never gave a straight answer as to the nature of their friendship, and Liam had as much fun with the game as Willow and Spike.

Spike decided three weeks ago that there should be a theater in town, and while the building was under construction, he directed volunteer actors in rehearsals. Most of it was comedic sketches, but there was a small play designed to make people consider their bigotry, and hopefully eschew such narrow mindedness. That last bit was Willow's doing. Spike agreed to let it into the routine so long as she invented cigarettes next. They compromised with her promising to make him cigarettes. He was on his own with the tobacco, but she could find a way to roll them for him.

It was midafternoon when Willow rushed into the cottage. Spike raised an eyebrow at her grinning face. "Do tell."

"I did it."

"Did what?"

"Figured out how to save Liam and myself."

"What's this now?" Liam asked as he sauntered in from his bedroom, scratching his chest.

"Crap."

"Sorry, love, didn't know he was awake."

"What's this about savin' me?" Liam asked as he put on a pot of water for tea.

Eyes wide and trying to come up with a convincing lie on the spot, Willow sputtered. Then gave up. "It's a secret. Just Will and I can know. Sorry, married couple only."

Liam raised an eyebrow but shrugged. They had a lot of secrets and never told him a single one. He didn't like it but he was used to it.

"Let's take this outside, shall we, pet?"

He guided her out by the small of her back. "Now what's this about knowing how to save the both of you?"

"We send him back in time a day and never undo the spell. He'll be as immortal as we are. No need for him to be turned. And he'll still be there to save future me."

"And there will be two of him then."

"Well yeah, but see how this can work? I could live. He'd have no victims. Another version of him will have a normal life. Tell me I've got your support on this." Willow hugged Spike, knowing how he'd react to that. "Please."

With a put upon sigh, he wrapped his arms around her. "Fine, I'm in. When do we do it?"

"As soon as we can get the supplies." Willow let go and paced. "We must hide him, or leave town. Shit. We can't leave town until we know Darla won't turn him."

Spike stopped her pacing by grabbing her shoulders. "We'll do it the day before we plan to leave."

"That's good. Good idea. We'll do that." Willow let herself lean against Spike. He was her best friend while she was here. He ran his fingers up and down her back as he felt her truly relax for the first time in months.

"So what are your plans for the day?"

"I was working with Brian and the boys on finishing your theater. It needs another day's work and it should be ready. What about you? What are your plans for the day?"

"New bloke in town thinks he can beat me in a fight. People assume I'm resting up for that, so I'm stuck here all day."

She rested her chin on his shoulder. "Be careful not to hurt him too badly, OK?"

"I know, I know. It'll be fine. Trust me."

"Never." She pulled away from him with a smile.

"Good girl." He kissed her nose. "Now get back to work. I've got an opening night to plan."

She saluted him, "Sir, yes, sir."

He swatted at her butt as she stuck her tongue out at him from over her shoulder. "Cheeky brat."

With a whistle she skipped down the lane and back to the theater. "I get to see my friends again. I get to live."

Her smile took on a wistful air. She couldn't wait to see Buffy and Xander and Oz again. She missed them terribly.

Liam was sitting at the table with a cup of tea when Spike re-entered the cottage. "Are you ever going to tell me what kind of creatures you and Willow be?"

"What do you mean, Liam?" Spike asked as he swung at his punching bag.

"I mean, I've been livin' with the two of you for three months. I'm not blind. You don't eat, you don't drink, you don't sleep, your hair doesn't grow, you don't smell, or defecate. What are you?"

"We don't smell because we bathe, we've never had much of an appetite either of us, and our hair takes forever to grow. We sleep when you do usually and we know how to be discreet about our bodily functions." Spike punched the bag a couple more times and then shrugged. "Is that all? Or do you want to fight it out?"

Liam stared at him. "Why does she call you Spike when she thinks I can't hear?"

"It's a nickname that she likes to keep as just hers." Spike huffed and took a seat. "What do you want me to say? We're private about certain things."

"Like eatin'? Because I did na say you dunna eat much. I said I never seen you eat."

"We've been to dinner before."

"And you and Willow push the food around your plates but it never touches your lips. Empty forks and spoons, never a morsel of food." Liam leaned forward. "Dunna treat me like a fool, William."

"If I told you we'll be telling you the truth soon, would that be enough for you?"

"Is that the best you can do?"

"For now."

"I'll wait. For you and Willow, I'll wait." Liam picked up an apple from the bowl. And tossed it in the air a few times as he left the house.

Spike watched Liam leave while his self recrimination boiled under his skin.


That night, Spike walked into the ring in a calm fury. He was pissed at himself for ever having thought he and Willow were fooling Liam. He was pissed, and he wanted to take it out on someone else. What he wanted to do was kill, but he'd been keeping a low profile so they didn't get run out of town. A low profile on the violence front at least. The fight club was his only outlet.

His opponent was a burly man with bright orange hair. The man attempted to psyche him out a few times but Spike didn't bat an eye. He stood there until the man swung a real punch. Spike moved his head and hit the man in the chest. It sent him flying back, and he sagged to the mat. It took a moment for Spike to realize why people were screaming. His opponent wasn't getting back up. He tried to fake some panic but he couldn't muster it.

Willow was at the man's side, feeling for a pulse. She met Spike's gaze and shook her head. He walked off, pushing anyone that tried to stop him out of the way. But he wasn't so blind that he missed Darla in the crowd. She was eyeing him up with a hint of a smile.

Spike walked up to her. "What are you smiling about?"

"Not much of a fight."

"What of it?"

"You're a vampire?" Her eyebrow raised slightly.

"Something like that." His expression was pure condensation. "I know you definitely are."

"I've been traveling alone for a long time. I wouldn't call such attention if I had an escort."

"No."

Willow caught up to him and stopped in her tracks when she saw Darla. She'd seen her once before but it was in a dark mausoleum. There were enough lanterns here to see her clearly this time. "Who's this then?"

"Haven't gotten a name," Spike said his voice ice.

"And what are you?"

"More than you can handle. I suggest you leave town."

"I wouldn't test her patience, ducks. She's got a temper on her that matches the hair."

Darla shrugged and walked away.

"I shoulda just killed the bitch."

Spike sighed. "I doubt she's leaving so we might have to. Or are we stealing Liam and making a run for it?"

"What?" she asked.

"The dead guy?"

"Oh, his wife showed up and said he was of ill health and shouldn't have been in the ring at all. People are still upset, but no one believes it was your fault."

"What about you?"

"I think you should stay out of sight for a few days just in case."

"That's not what I meant."

"One problem at a time, Spike. I'll figure out how I feel after we're sure Darla's not a threat." Willow shared a glance with him. "I'll fetch Liam and meet you at home."

Back at the cottage, Willow and Spike made sure Liam was too busy to pay attention to them. Spike brought Liam's favorite bed buddy there to keep him occupied while he and Willow talked in their room.

"She's early." Willow hugged herself. "We're not prepared."

"She doesn't seem interested in Liam though. She's more interested in us."

"And that will lead to an interest in Liam."

"I have an idea on where we can get all the supplies we need for the spell, but I'd have to leave town for a day and night. I know I don't have to worry about you. But I should take Liam with me, yes?"

"Take him with you as soon as his girl leaves. I'll try to keep Darla's carnage to a minimum." She glanced at him wishing she could say something else, but nothing came to her. She left swinging the cloak she arrived in around her shoulders, pinned shut with the brooch they bought back.

Spike watched her until she disappeared. And he leaned in the doorway until he heard the final throws of passion in Liam's bedroom. He didn't feel like waiting any longer so he knocked on the door. "Liam. It's an emergency, I need you to come with me now. I'll explain everything." He put special emphasis on the last word.

Liam stumbled out as he tied his breeches. "Gail, you know I love you but you heard him, this is an emergency. Can you see yourself home?"

Not wanting to waste time, Spike dragged Liam into what passed as his and Willow's bedroom. "Listen carefully, and if there's something you don't understand, ask, so I can explain."

"I'm listenin'," Liam said.

"You were right. Willow and I aren't human. Well, strictly speaking she is but we're under the effects of a spell. We're from the future, and we came back to stop something bad from happening to you."

"To save me. But from what? And why would saving me kill Willow?"

"Did you see the blonde woman talking to me after I got out of the ring?"

"Aye."

"She's a vampire and she will turn you into a demon if we don't stop her. But the catch is that you in future, get your soul back, and save Willow's life. We still need you to do that, but Willow figured out how to save the both of you this morning."

"I heard as much, but what can be done? How can both of us survive?"

"You're going to do a spell. A time travel spell, the same one that brought Willow and I here."

"I'm going to the future then?"

"No. You'll go back a day. It'll render you entirely unkillable. You'll never die, or eat, or drink, or sleep from that point on, but you will be able to, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but you'll be able to save many people's lives." Spike felt nauseous just at the suggestion of Liam turning into a white hat full stop.

"What are we waitin' for? Willow's been like a sister to me these past months. I'll not have her come to harm."

"Willow will keep Darla in check while we go a few towns over to get the ingredients for the spell. You'll do it as soon as we have those supplies. You'll go back a day, and then there will be two of you. And until we know your other self is safe, you need to stay hidden. Do you understand?"

"I do. I'll dress and we'll be off."

Spike pat Liam's back. "Hurry."


In town Willow found Darla with little effort. She knew she liked to hang out in pubs, and there were still only two those. Willow guessed right the first time. The problem with being half the town's favorite spectacle was her entrance didn't go unnoticed. Michael was hosting the poker table for the night and appeared to be teaching Darla the rules.

"Willow!" he called with a big smile on his face. "Teach the lady our game."

"Michael you know the game as well as I do, but then us ladies need to stick together." She kept her focus on the vampire. "Right, Darla?"

"And pray tell how do you know my name?" Darla fanned herself with her cards.

"You'd be surprised at how much I know about you." Willow sat next to her and peeked at Darla's cards. She whispered in her ear, "You've got a straight flush. Up the bet."

Darla tossed a couple coins to the center of the table. "So tell me, Willow, what is it that you want?"

Willow smiled sweetly as Darla won the hand. "Deal me in. I promise not to steal all your money."

"Only the very lucky, or the very skilled should stay at this table," Michael said to the newcomers. The two locals left the table, knowing they'd never beat Willow. "Aces high? Sevens wild?"

"You know it." Willow smiled at the dealer.

"What does that mean? Aces high and sevens wild?" Darla asked.

"It means that aces are worth more than kings, and sevens can be any card you want them to be."

"Aces are the ones?"

"Yes."

"But isn't one the least valuable card?" Darla asked as she looked at her hand.

"They're deceptive that way. I'm sure you can understand that, right, Darla?" Willow passively peeked at the cards she left face down on the table.

"I suppose I can." Darla noticed the expectant expressions. "What?"

"It's your open," Willow said without emotion.

"Oh. Can I trade these cards for new ones?" Darla pushed two cards to the center of the table. When she got her replacements she smiled demurely and tossed two coins to the center of the table.

"Cards?" Michael asked Willow.

She gestured that she needed none. "I'll see your two and raise you two more."

One of the out of towners folded. And the other threw in four coins after trading in two cards. "Call."

"What does call mean again?" Darla asked.

"It means you either need to meet the bet or fold."

Darla set two more coins in the pile. "Call."

Willow flipped her cards over. "Aces and sevens."

"Does that beat what I have?" Darla asked as she laid out her cards.

"You have a pair of aces and a pair of kings, a good hand, but my sevens are aces, making it four of a kind and that beats two pairs." Willow collected her coins.

The out of towners left the table and Michael grinned at Willow. "You didn't even let them win a single hand. It's not like you to be so generous."

"Generous?" Darla questioned.

"Normally she sets people up to lose their entire purse by letting them win a few hands here and there."

"Isn't this a game of chance?"

"You never were that bright were you?" Willow asked.

And then it was between Willow and Darla. Two people didn't make for the best poker games, but they made for suspenseful ones. The entire pub was watching in silence only gasping here and there when one lady one upped the other.

The two women had the same number of coins. Willow asked for a single new card and Darla studied her reaction to that card and saw the slightest hint of disappointment. She took no cards and pushed her entire stack into the pot. "Call."

Willow pushed her coins in and asked, "What do you got?"

Darla laid down her cards. She had a straight.

With a smirk Willow turned over her cards. "Royal flush."

"Well played."

Willow collected her winnings. "I thank you for your contribution to my wealth."

"I'm sure I'll find a way to win it back." Darla stood up and walked out of the bar. She got halfway down the lane when an arrow struck her in the back, narrowly missing the heart.

Willow walked up to Darla and grabbed the shaft, twisting it. "This is my town. I suggest you leave."

"And if I don't?"

"I missed the heart on purpose," Willow lied the same as she bluffed. "I won't next time." She ripped the bolt out of Darla's back as she strode away.


Spike had been drilling it into Liam's head every step and syllable of the spell and he believed it would never be a better chance. "Concentrate on yesterday. And picture my bedroom. Got it?"

Liam nodded, and Spike backed out of the circle. There were two flashes and Liam disappeared.

"This better bloody well work." He cleaned up the remnants of the spell and then got on his horse and headed back to Willow and both Liams.

Liam showed up in Willow and William's bedroom, landing on his ass on the hardwood floor. He looked at the ring on his finger and saw that it was melted in place like Willow and William's were.

Hoping he showed up when he wanted, he heard Willow come home excited and talking about how she did it. He remembered the conversation. Then he heard himself, and while he knew it was him saying the words, the tone sounded colder. He'd have to ask Willow about that when he got to see her.

This was the first time he'd ever been in their room. They'd forbade him more than once in the past and while he liked them, their unnaturalness scared him into listening. There was no bed in their room. There was two comfortable chairs with a table in the middle of them. More than one set of cards were set aside with an odd looking silver box sitting next to William's pipe.

Their wardrobe had a lot of clothes, most he'd seen but in the drawer at the bottom, there were clothes the likes he'd never seen before in impossible colors.

On the one desk were papers with designs on them, but what they might be designs of, he didn't know. But they were like the ones Willow drew of the furniture she invented. They had strange words scrawled on the top of them: computer, television, radio, telephone, toilet, water filtration, on and on like that. Her journal lay open, and she talked about how the people of this time needed to improve medicine and hygiene. He tried to follow her writing, but it was stranger than the way she spoke, and he soon gave up.

At the other desk were books and journals. Liam opened one and read William's handwriting. "And as I fell back, now I walk forward into a new unknown future. Will we succeed? Will I keep my Drusilla? Will my Willow survive? Will Drusilla even want me now? I fear Willow's been a bad influence and I've been house broken like a common pet. I miss fighting to kill, but I don't have the thirst for it that I used to have. I only want to kill when I think about it, which isn't often these days. I'm not William the Bloody, nor am I Spike or even William Pratt. This spell and spending so much time with Willow has ripped my identity away from me. But I don't want to change it. Each day that passes, I care for Willow more and more. And while Liam can be tiresome with his drunken fights and affairs, he's part of the family, and I trust that when we tell him the truth, he'll rise to the occasion. I find that my hate of Angelus has no place with Liam."

Liam closed the journal and flipped through the others. There were over a dozen of them, all in William's hand with several entries per date. The farthest back he could find was the day after he met Willow and William. Some of the entries meandering thoughts, others poetry, and there was an entire book that appeared to be a story. A story about things called computers and people called hackers. The main character was a woman that sounded like Willow.

He'd been so lost in his spying into the private lives of William and Willow that he'd missed himself leaving. He heard Spike punching the bag in the main room, and went out to talk to him, startling William.

"Thought you left."

"Aye, I did, but I be a different version." He raised his hand to show off his ring.

Spike's eyes narrowed. "So she did it, huh? Why send you back so far?"

"I only came back a little over a day. Darla's in town and if you're not careful, you kill a man tonight." Liam leaned in the doorway. "You told me to get some money off you and meet you in London. Told you I could get out of town with no one seein'. We agreed that it was the best idea while you saved the other me from this Darla character and sent me off to have a normal life. But shouldn't you send the other me out of town? Darla canna hurt me, but the other Liam is mortal isn't he?"

"You've got a point there. Stay here while I take that advice and track down Willow. And just to be clear, I kill the man in the fight I'm scheduled for, right?"

"Aye."

"Can't do that now can I?" Spike walked around Liam and into his room. He got dressed in two ticks. Then he went into Liam's room and packed a bag for him. He added a good chunk of change and slung the bag over his shoulder.

Liam watched Spike and noticed for the first time that William moved with not just a swagger, but one of a predator. It felt like it was made to attract and stalk at the same time. "You don't move like a man. Are you really a vampire?"

Spike put on his game face for a second and then shook it off. "That enough?"

"It is. And you did this. Willow stayed here to watch Darla."

"Well then, you should thank me. But staying out of sight for now would be thanks enough." Spike left, taking one of their horses.

Spike knew where to find Willow, but no clue where to find the other Liam. He didn't even have to tie up the horse, Willow was outside the theater talking with some of the workers.

"William! Shouldna be resting up for the fight?"

"Something came up, mate. Need to talk to the wife." Spike dismounted and held the reins as he whispered to Willow.

"Oh. That's a complication we're not ready for." Willow frowned as her brain worked the problem. "But Liam was right about whom to send away."

"Any idea where he is?" Spike asked.

"This time of day? On a fight night? He's usually with his sister so she doesn't see him all banged up." Willow looked back at the men. "Let me give them some instructions and I'll join you."

Spike nodded, and Willow told the men what to do for the next few hours. Nothing dangerous, she wanted them to do the things they already knew how to do. Less likely for them to get hurt that way.

Joining her fake husband, she let him help her onto the saddle in front of him. His riding, while not bad was still worse than hers. She'd had riding lessons until she was fourteen. When the horse she'd had her whole life died, she quit riding. It was good to know she still had all the skills though.

"I can't wait until you invent cars." Spike groaned as they dismounted in front of the Tierney home. Willow snorted. But then they heard Liam's father yelling at him. "This might be easier than I thought it would be."

"Getting him to leave town?"

"Yeah. Right after a row with the 'rents? He'll want to get as far away as possible." Spike knocked on the door.

Liam's mother answered the door. "Mr. Ashdown, Mrs. Ashdown. You're here for Liam I assume?"

"We are, Mrs. Tierney," Willow said.

"I beg you tear him away from his father before they come to blows."

Willow glanced at Spike. "Left?"

"Right."

With a nod the two of them dragged Liam out of the house he grew up in, Willow securing his left arm while Spike took his right.

When they got out of hearing range of Liam's family, they dropped him and Spike said, "We've got a problem."

"Aye, you two keep dragging me away and droppin' me on my arse." Liam rubbed his buttocks as he stood up. "So what's the other problem?"

"You need to leave town. Now. And no one can see you do it." Willow hugged him. "Go to London. We'll meet you there as soon as we can."

"There's more than enough dosh in the purse to get you there and set up comfortably. Use the name Ashdown, so we can find you easier. They haven't invented directories yet. Hey, Will. That's what you should do next."

Willow rolled her eyes. "You come up with a new request for me to invent every other hour. How can I possibly keep up?" She hugged Liam again. "Keep warm."

"I canna go. I have to stay for Kathy."

"Crap, we haven't told him yet." Willow sighed. "Liam. There are two of you in this timeline. We're from the distant future and the other you is from a day from now. We can't keep both of you here. And we'll all have to leave soon enough. If we leave you here, then something terrible is going to happen to you. And we came back hundreds of years just to prevent that."

"Well that's not exactly true now is it?" Spike asked with a pout.

"Close enough," Willow said through gritted teeth. "We shouldn't confuse him more than necessary."

"There's nothing you can say to get me to leave Kathy." Liam huffed and walked off.

Willow looked up at Spike. "Did he kill Kathy before?"

"My understanding is that he killed the whole village, family included." Spike rolled his eyes. "Got it, I have to convince him."

"Thank you, darling husband."

"Witch."

With a smirk Willow mounted the horse. "I'll see you back at the house."


Time traveling Liam was poking around Willow and William's room again. He found William's journals fascinating. He was so involved with reading a passage so filled with violence that when she cleared her throat in the doorway, he dropped the diary.

"Don't let William catch you reading those." Her smile was mischievous.

"Willow. I didna hear you come in." He picked the book up and put it back where it belonged. "Were you able to get the other me outta town?"

"No, he won't leave Kathy."

"Shoulda thought of that." Liam awkwardly squeezed past Willow to get out of her room. He yawned and stretched. "Why am I so tired? Thought I wasn't supposed to need sleep anymore."

"There's one sleep to rejuvenate you after the spell, then you'll never sleep until the spell is reversed." She tilted her head. "Go get some sleep."

Willow made sure Spike's journals were as he left them. A piece of loose paper fell out of the one, and she picked it up to put it back when she saw her name. Curiosity got the better of her and she read the page. It was a poem.

And while her Willow branches bend, my bones break,
I splinter into dust with my want of her,
I'll never be what she wants,
Not hers to take,
But I want to lose myself in her embrace much more,
More than I want my dark love back,
More than I want to fight,
More than I want to bleed,
More than I want to feed,
More than I want to live,
I need her to mend my broken bones,
My broken heart needs to learn to bend like my Willow.

With a lump in her throat, Willow put the poem back in the journal from which it fell and slipped the book into its place on his shelf. And now she knew what she was going to "invent" next.

"Willow!" Spike called when he got to the house.

"Yes, Spike?" Willow said as she came out of their room.

"The big lunkhead won't leave town until after the fights tonight. Wants one more chance in the ring."

"That's not good news, but what choice do we have? If he leaves right after the event, he should still be safe. It's better than him refusing to leave altogether."

"Where's the other one?"

"In his room having that last sleep."

"I miss sleep." Spike sighed. "I miss other things in beds too."

Willow averted her gaze and ran her finger across the dining table. "Maybe, we should get one. I miss laying down sometimes, stretching out."

Spike narrowed his eyes at her. Something changed and not knowing what bothered him. "I s'pose we could. Our room is big enough if we move the furniture in there about. But we could only get one and I've never been a fan for small beds."

"Perhaps it should wait until we get to our next residence. I mean why get a big bed for here when we won't be here much longer?" She wanted to kick herself for the backpedal, but his tone was so suggestive, and she panicked.

"Yeah. Our next residence." Spike ran a hand through his hair and mumbled. "Maybe we can make a home."

Later that evening, Liam groused that he couldn't go to the fight because the other Liam was going, but decided to make the best of it by starting his own journal. There was never a shortage of ink or books in the house, so he picked one with tooled brown leather and sat down, wondering what he'd fill the pages with. Was there a story he'd like to tell? Or things he'd like to design? Or would he recount his experiences? He wasn't much of a poet, but he liked to think himself learned enough that he could weave a good tale. But nothing came to him.


In the ring, Spike was getting irritated with the man challenging him. He was so afraid of killing him that his punches were pulled to the point of ineffectualness. Finally, when the man kicked him in the ear, Spike let a half strength punch land on the man's chest, and he crumpled to the ground.

When the man didn't get back up, Willow got into the ring and checked vitals. Her eyes closed, and she shook her head. The crowd fell silent when a woman screamed.

Spike ducked out of the ring and found Darla in the crowd. He needed her dealt with now and with having burned their ability to live in Galway, it was even more important to get rid of her fast.

Her smile was coquettish. "Don't tell me you were afraid of hurting that man? What kind of vampire are you?"

"I'm the kind that likes to stay in one place and live under the radar. But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy a spot of real violence from time to time. Whatcha say? Wanna have a go and see who lands on top?" Spike whispered in her ear.

She hit him in the chest with a fan. "That would be me."

"Prove it."

Instead she walked around him, eyes on Liam as he helped Willow calm the wife of the dead contender. "Who's your friend?"

"He's under my protection."

"Is he now?" Darla touched her upper teeth with her tongue. "I might have to accept that challenge."

"Bugger." Spike shoved her out of the building. "Stay the hell away from what's mine."

"Does he know he belongs to you?" She asked as her chest heaved. "Does the girl?"

"They're well aware." Spike hit the tip of her nose with his. "Get out of town, Darla. Go back to your Master like the dog you are."

Her eyes narrowed, and she backhanded him, drawing blood from his lip. "What your tongue or I'll rip it out of your head."

Spike's eyes flashed as he grabbed her by the throat and lifted her off the ground and threw her several yards away. "Consider this your get out of jail free card."

"My what?"

He sidled up to her and looked down at her prone form. "You'll understand one day. Maybe. You were never that bright."

"You presume such lies?"

"Get out of town, Darla." He pivoted and returned to the ring to find Willow waiting for him. "Well?"

"He'd been of ill health, but people are skittish. We need to get Liam out of town. Right now." They turned to look for Liam but he was nowhere in sight. "Damn."

"He probably went to say goodbye to Kathy." Spike's jaw twitched. "Let me throw my shirt on and we'll go after the git."

She followed him to the dressing area then outside where they discovered Liam took his horse and let theirs go. "Damn." Her mind changed on what she'd "invent" next. "I'm so glad I was such a curious kid."

They were halfway to the Tierneys when a group of locals surrounded them. Willow and Spike recognized the men as the ones that were hung up on them being witches. Real old fashioned bunch that still believed in burning witches.

The fight went bad from the word go. Spike killed two men, but there were enough of them that Willow and Spike were subdued quickly. Chained together, they caught sight of Darla hanging out in the background, and she wasn't alone. Tied up in her lap was Liam, drained dry while she had a line of blood across her chest.

Willow closed her eyes against the tableau, while Spike bore holes in the bitch, his nose flaring. "You're going to regret that!"

Minutes later, Darla was lighting the pier under their feet. "Regret what?"

Her eyes fiery, Willow cackled. "Just you wait. This is not over, and you will regret this." Willow's dress caught on fire. "This is hotter than summer in Sunnydale." Her laughing became crazed.

Darla picked Liam's body up and left.

Spike reached Willow's hand and laced his fingers through hers as the fire licked them, blistering the skin. "We'll get out of this."

"I know we will." Her eyes went black as she screeched at the sky, opening it up and bring a thunderstorm.

The men ran like mice.

The fire burnt their clothes away and with them the ropes, even as the storm Willow called doused the flames. The two time travelers were covered in soot, streaked by the rain as they walked away from the scene.

Spike's voice returned first. "I'm going to kill that bitch."

Willow nodded. "Don't leave me out. That hurt." She sat on a nearby log as the sky cleared. "We're going to have to kill Angelus too."

He sat next to her. "Do you smell burnt hair?"

"Yeah." She studied his head. "But your hair's fine. Is mine?"

"Yeah. God time travel's enough to drive one batty." Spike examined his privates to make sure they were still intact and sighed with relief when he saw they only needed cleaned.

"How are we going to get to the house? These times aren't clothing optional."

Spike scoped out their surroundings with vampiric ease. "Some lazy sot left their clothes on the line."

"Where?"

"Several meters that way." He pointed but she couldn't see anything.

"Let's go." Willow stood up.

"After you," he said with a leer.

"Fat chance bub. You're the one that can see it, so you're going to lead the way."

"Any excuse to check out my ass? I'm flattered."

She rolled her eyes and followed him through the dark.




"Mr. Giles, I don't know why you asked to meet today, but I'm afraid I have my hands full running a reformatory for supervillains. Faith's even talked about joining my merry band of delinquents." Wesley sipped his tea and eyed the man before him. "So please get to it."

"I got the information you asked in exchange for helping Willow." Giles tossed a folder onto the table. "Cordelia got called by the powers. She's no longer on this plane."

With a skim of the file, Wesley nodded. "Willow's well. Said to say hello for her." He stood, left five dollars, and took the folder. "Good day."

Wesley returned to the building him and those in his care lived in an industrial neighborhood to keep people from prying into their business. His charges got louder than his apartment building had tolerated. Now not an exception to that rule since he could hear pain filled screaming the moment he opened the door. "Has he been like this during my entire absence?"

Willow ran a damp rag over Spike's neck as he screamed into her stomach. "No. This started five minutes ago. But it started as soon as he noticed you left. Giles is such a bastard. Why couldn't he come here?"

"Seeing you might be too painful for him." Wesley sat on the ground next to them and rubbed Spike's back.

"How would he know? He hasn't seen me since he dropped me at your door." Willow ran fingers through Spike's hair as his screams subsided into shaking tears. "Did you tell him about Spike yet?"

"I doubt that's a good idea. I told you what Spike did to Buffy. Giles would want the creature responsible destroyed." Wesley leaned against Willow when Spike pulled on his shirt.

Willow rested her head on Wesley's. "But he's got a soul now. And Angel killed Jenny and then tortured him. Giles forgave him."

"He never forgave Angel for anything, but rather tolerated his existence for Buffy's sake." Wesley sighed. "It'll be dark soon. We need to get ready. What's Connor doing?"

"He ran to get fresh blood for Spike. The last batch went bad. He should be back any minute." Willow whispered in Spike's ear. "We need to go look for Angel. Wes is back and wants you to put on your brave face for him."

Spike nodded and rolled to his feet. "Find me sire. We need to find me sire so he can tell me how." He ran to the basement.

"If Spike doesn't eat this, I'll stake him and put him out of his misery." Connor set the bag of pig's blood on the table. "He's turning into a walking skeleton."

"Connor, pull the car in, would you?" Wesley gave the keys to Connor and then asked Willow, "Have you been able to get through to him about the difference between Angel and Angelus? I want to know how to judge his continued callousness."

"Can't even say Angel's name without him getting bristly. I think getting him to help find his father at all is a miracle." Willow sighed. "I just hope that locator spell works this time. Who'd think something seemingly simple would be so difficult to master. I deratted Amy easier."

"In good news, Giles found Cordelia. She's on the same plane as the powers, so we can stop worrying about her."

"She's better off there than here. Looking for Angel for months on end in a fishing boat would kill her."

"Because she'd be worried about Angel, I know."

"She's probably still worried about him. I was talking about Cordelia being on a fishing boat. I don't care how much of humanitarian she's become, there's not a power in the multi-verse that would make her okay with fish smell."

"Ready!" Wesley and Willow turned to see Spike, naked save the swim fins. "Shotgun."

"What's taking Connor so long?" Willow asked as she wrapped a towel around Spike's waist.

"Since Spike's done this every night for three weeks, I assume he didn't want to see Spike's penis again. I think he's attracted and can't handle being attracted to a demon. He'll be here shortly." Wesley watched the garage door open. "And here he is."

"I'll get the picnic baskets." Willow went the kitchen area of the open space to get four bags of sustenance.

"No Spike! You sit in the back!" Connor's annoyance reached screeching levels.

"I have super hearing too you know. You need not hurt the ole eardrums to make a request. And I called shotgun, so there." Spike stuck his tongue out at Connor as he tossed the towel out the window.

"One of you drive." Connor growled as he got in the backseat.

"If you drive there, I'll drive back." Willow put the food in the trunk and checked to see if they had all the magic supplies they needed.

"Deal." Wesley replied.


"How's Wes?" Fred asked as Giles returned to the Hyperion.

"He appeared in good health."

"Did you ask him?"

"He didn't give me the chance, but I doubt he's in the dark." Giles rounded the counter and poured a cup of coffee.

"So he knows y'all are here?"

"It's a safe assumption." Giles turned to Dawn. "How's the research coming?"

"There's a translation for this book, so better. Buffy's at that demon hospital thing asking around. Hopefully she'll get somewhere." Dawn didn't take her eyes of her note taking.

"How's the prisoner?"

"Anya's getting close to figuring out how we're keeping her trapped. Don't you think it's kinda low to keep her captive when she worked so hard to help us against Willow?"

"I'll let her go when she let's me destroy her power center. I don't want to hurt her, but we can't have her out there hurting people." Giles pinched the bridge of his nose. "Has Xander checked in?"

"He says Sunnydale's doing fine. Willow's warpath is still keeping the demons scared and at bay."

Giles addressed Fred with the next question. "Have you and Gunn found anything?"

"An already dusted vampire and heap of nothing. Sorry no news on where Angel disappeared to. Do we know who else Wesley's overseeing? Who the supervillains are other than Willow?" Fred followed Giles into the office.

"All I know is that Faith is not among them. I think Wesley only mentioned that because he knew I was already aware." Giles looked through the desk drawers. "Are we out of aspirin?"

"I was going on a supply run. I'll put it on the list." Fred touched his shoulder. "Maybe you should try getting some sleep."

"I can't afford such a luxury. Wolfram and Hart's power increased too steeply since Cordelia and Angel's disappearances."

Three in the morning and Buffy was having some serious insomnia. Not knowing what happened to Angel, and the Wolfram and Hart threat hurt. Her hands were blistered and calloused from how much Slaying she'd done these past months. And her appetite knew no bounds. The kitchen couldn't stay stocked as evident by nothing quick being available. Stale saltines in hand, Buffy headed back to her room. When she made it to the lobby, nothing prepared her for finding a naked and shaking woman standing there.

"Cordelia?"

She nodded, "Trans-dimensional travel from the higher plane sucks, like super sucks. Clothes please?"

Buffy tossed the crackers on the counter and rushed for the blanket in the office. "Let's get you upstairs to your room. Fred and Gunn brought all your things here when we couldn't afford to pay the rent for an empty apartment anymore."

Blanket secure around her, Cordelia felt the chill ebb. "Poor Denis. He's got to be so worried about me. I need to talk to him."

"Someone else already rented it." Buffy felt terrible for dropping that on her, but she didn't want Cordelia to stop by her old place and get surprised by the new occupants.

They hadn't gotten up two steps when the door crashed open by Wesley half-carrying an emaciated Angel. "He needs blood. I'm fresh out." Red seeping through the gauze around Wesley's forearm.

Buffy took Angel and sat him on the round couch while Cordelia and Wesley held each other's gaze. "Hello Wesley."

"Cordelia." He handed her a business card before leaving.

The card had a phone number scrawled on it with the words 'Useable for 3 days' printed in a simple typeface. "Interesting."

"Can you sit with him while I get fresh blood from the butcher?" Buffy asked as she considered her bank account. Could she afford enough blood to help him?

"It's three thirty in the morning and he looks like he'll need more than animal blood." Without pause, Cordelia grabbed a letter opener off the counter and slashed her forearm. Angel reacted and bit down.

"I almost died last time I did that."

"If we take turns that won't happen." Cordelia pulled her arm away from Angel. "You're up."

Buffy grumbled but followed in Cordy's footsteps. They watched as Angel went from near skeletal to human looking again.

"Angel?" Buffy asked as she pushed his wet hair back. "Angel, what happened to you?"

"Connor." Angel hadn't come out of his starvation induced insanity yet, but he knew it was Buffy holding him, and he saw Cordelia over Buffy's shoulder. Cordelia looked so young it took a moment for him to register it was her.

"Your son did this to you?" Buffy hugged him. "I'm so sorry."

Cordelia watched on unsurprised.


When Wesley showed up at the warehouse, Willow knew something was wrong. She handed Spike the blood she'd just heated for him and then focused on Wes. "What happened?"

"Cordelia's back."

Connor's head shot up from the book he was reading. "Cordy?"

"Yes. She looked younger and paler than I remember, but it was her." Wesley set his keys on the counter and disappeared into his office. Through the window the others could see him selecting books.

"I need to pray to the goddess. Connor? Watch over Spike." Willow didn't wait for an answer before walking off toward her sacred space.

"Whatever." Connor shot a glare at Spike and then went back to his book.

Spike smacked his lips as the microwaved human blood cleansed his palette and restored his body. When the earthquake hit, Spike laughed and sang, "That's great, it starts with an earthquake. Birds and snakes, an aeroplane, and Lenny Bruce is not afraid. Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn. World serves its own needs, don't misserve your own needs. Feed it up a knock, speed, grunt, no, strength. The ladder starts to clatter with a fear of height, down, height Wire in a fire, represent the seven games. And a government for hire and a combat site. Left her, wasn't coming in a hurry with the Furies breathing down your neck."

Wesley and Willow returned and pushed Spike and Connor into the doorframe of the office. "This isn't good."

"What's wrong, Willow?" Wesley asked.

"Last couple major earthquakes were harbingers of end of the world hijinks."

As the world stilled, Wesley sighed. "Then let's both see what we can find in the books."

"Agreed."


The entire group at the Hyperion sat silent and disturbed after hearing Angel tell them what happened. No one cared about the earthquake that passed half an hour ago. Angel sat in the office chair wrapped in a blanket and almost dry and the sensation made his skin crawl with its unfamiliarity. He ran through everything since surfacing through a filter, trying to piece together why Connor helped rescue him. Something about what vampire bites really look like or something. He'd still been hallucinating when they were talking to him about that. But Connor's face stood out in his mind. He looked so haunted.

Angel got up and left the office, heading for his room. A shower and a change of clothes were what he needed right now.

Cordelia watched him leave, worried about him as always. For the champion of the group he had a delicate mind. The thoughts of his son had to be crazing him with memories of his son sending him to the bottom of the ocean and then pulling him back up. With the help of the man in part responsible for Connor's upbringing in Quor'toth, no less.

She followed him, giving him enough warning that she was on her way by tromping on the stairs. His door was open, and she leaned in the threshold. "How are you really doing?"

His back was to her while he stared out the balcony doors shower and changing forgotten. "I don't know. Still trying to get used to not hallucinating."

"Then keep absorbing the sanity. You deserve a break. I wish you could have one." She walked fully into his room, closing the door behind her. It didn't stay closed because Buffy barged in. "Hey Buffy, I need to talk to Angel alone for a minute. Could you give us some privacy?"

Buffy opened her mouth but Angel spoke, "Why didn't you show up?"

Cordelia sighed. "I got called to be a power for a little while. Just long enough to find out what the real mission needs to be."

"Are we in love?" Angel ignored Buffy's shocked expression.

"We are, but I don't know that it's good for either of us, and right now we need to focus. There's a multidimensional multi-verse out there that needs us right now. We don't have time for personal lives." Cordelia wished she could just kiss Angel the way people do for their first kiss.

"What's the mission?" Buffy asked, serious and putting aside personal issues.

"You two might want to sit down. This will take some explaining."


"How long have the three of them been up there?" Fred asked. "It's awful quiet. You don't think they killed each other do you?"

"Why would they?" Gunn asked as he polished his axe.

"Oh, I don't know, because Buffy was the love of his life before LA and Cordelia was the love of his life here, and now the three of them are all in one room with no chaperones to keep the peace." Fred pushed her glasses up her nose.

"Perhaps we should check on them?" Giles said as he looked at his watch. "They've been up there for hours."

"I'll go!" Dawn said as she popped up. She didn't get far when Angel came down the stairs.

"Angel!" Fred's enthusiasm dimmed when she saw that he had his 'I'm on a mission' face going. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing. I need to talk to my son."

"We don't know where he and Wesley and Willow are staying though." Dawn was trying to be helpful, but Angel glowered at her.

"I'll find them." Angel stalked out the door and into the predawn hours.

When Buffy showed up in the lobby, Dawn pounced. "What happened up there?"

"What? Oh, nothing. Cordelia and I just tried to keep Angel from popping his top." Buffy sighed. "I need to work off some energy or I'll never get any sleep." And Buffy disappeared down to the basement.


Cordelia sat in Angel's room hoping that the seed she'd planted would yield the fruit she hoped it would.


The basement of the Hyperion was silent, save the not quite sounds coming from the barrier keeping Anya captive. Dawn figured Buffy went out hunting again. Slaying wasn't what she did anymore. Dawn sat, cross legged, next to the glowing circle. "How much do you already know?"

Anya, laying on her back, sighed. "Angel's back and so is Cordelia. How's Buffy taking the Cordelia/Angel romance?"

"Angel and Cordy? Holy crap. That explains Buffy's need to go out for a third time in less than twelve hours." Dawn laughed. "I remember Cordy always trying to steal Angel away from Buffy that first year in Sunnydale. Buffy's gotta be beside herself with Cordelia succeeding in her quest to get Angel."

"Cordelia's always had surprising depth. It's not a surprise that Angel would be drawn to it. He's only been seeping in it for six years. And friends make better lovers. I've never been called to exact vengeance on men who were their love’s best friend first." Anya turned onto her side, head resting on an elbow propped hand. "Any luck on finding a way out of this prison yet?"

"I woulda already told you," Dawn said, with her 'you're an idiot' face in place.

"So dish, how does Cordy look? I assume as fabulous as ever."

"You'd be right. And I don't know why everyone hated on her so much. Everyone could always count on her to drop everything and help out when needed. Granted there were times she was a total beeatch, but considering her parents were around less than Willow's, and she had more money than evangelical preachers back then, it's not a surprise she acted the way she did." Dawn leaned back to fish some gum out of her pocket. "I got you Trident this time. The super sugary gums just rot your teeth."

"Thanks, kid." She caught the pack Dawn tossed to her. Things get through the barrier coming in, just not going out. "Get me something new to read? I can only listen to you guys being boring for so long before I want to rip my ears off."

Dawn eyed the stacks of books in there with her already. "If I bring you any more books, you won't be able to move or breathe."

"I'll be fine. I'll just fry some of these by tossing them through the force field."

With a shrug, Dawn stood up in a fluid motion. "Be back soon with more. Clean up."

Anya popped some gum in her mouth and tossed the paper at the glowing barrier between her and freedom, sighing as it sizzled to disintegration.


When Cordelia walked into the warehouse that housed Wesley and his misfits, Conor bolted upright, startling Spike who sat at his feet. "Watch it, mate!"

"Cordy?" Connor rushed to hug the woman he'd thought lost to him forever.

She smiled as she squeezed him. "I missed you, you little punk." She pulled back, pushing his hair out of his face. "For someone so smart, you're an idiot. You saw Angel's true face and the true face of other vampires. Didn't you notice that all their front teeth on top are pointy. A bite is never just two itty bitty puncture marks."

"Figured it out, didn't I?" he said, his head held high and defiant.

"After Wesley found out what you did and why and told you," she teased with a wide smile and a nudge.

"At least he listened," Wesley said as he and Willow came out of the office. "Do I merit a hug?"

"I figured out a lot myself. Of course you get a hug, Wes." She opened her arms and the two friends embraced, warm and forgiving. Willow jumped in and hugged them both, spurring Spike into joining. He hugged a bit too hard though. "Spike, we all need to breathe."

He stepped back. "Sorry. You're smashing as ever, Cordelia. Higher power juice did you good."

"Higher power?" Willow asked with a furrowed brow.

"I can smell it." Spike touched his nose.

"He's right. I spent time as a higher power, and I still got some of the juice as he put it, flowing in these veins." Cordelia smiled awkwardly.

"Explains a lot. You look so young and fresh." Willow frowned. "Pass some of that good stuff on to the haggard and worn why don't ya?"

"Would if I could, but I only have so much. It's why I'm here. There's an apocalypse coming and I need your help with it." She thought back on how terrible Buffy and Angel took the news and frowned. She hoped these four would take it better, or at least understand what was at stake.


Buffy found Angel with little issue. She'd spent so much time not feeling him around that now she could find him with all her senses shut down. His presence echoed inside her. He looked so distraught, and she stood back until he looked at her.

"What do you want, Buffy?"

"To make sure you don't do anything stupid. I figure if I can't stop myself, maybe I can stop you. That way at least one of us has a chance at being not as miserable." She sat on a crate in the alley and he sat next to her.

"You're not mad at me?"

"It hurts. But losing your first love always does, doesn't it?" She shook her head. "I'm angry, but I know I have no right to it. So this is me, being big and trying to just be your friend."

"I won't talk to you about how I feel about Cordelia. It's not the same as what we had, but it's no less powerful. So let's just leave it there, OK?"

"OK. But I wanted to talk to you about the other stuff she said. The apocalypse stuff. What do you think?"

He looked up at the flickering street light. "I don't know. I swore to protect this world and the innocent. And now I feel like I can't do both."

"We will have to pick. Infinite innocent souls, or this world and it's limited innocent. I know why that's got to be a tough decision for you especially."

"Because you took it so well?" He huffed a sarcastic laugh.

"You have a son. I have a sister about the same age. Oh god, I hope they don't end up dating. That'd be too weird even for me." Buffy made a face.

"Yeah it would for me too." Angel made his own face. "I once tried to get to the Home Office and wound up here. I thought Wolfram and Hart could be destroyed, but the way Cordy laid it out, I was wrong."

"Yeah. It makes you wonder if absolutes exist. I mean we paint these black and white lines. But it's not that simple. I'm finally getting that." Buffy shivered as a gust of wind ran up her sweater. "Any idea where Wesley and your son are?"

"Wes did a good job at making sure I couldn't follow his scent. And if I hadn't just forgiven him, I'd try to suffocate him again." He stood up. "We should get you back to the hotel. The temperature dropped at least ten degrees since you found me."

"I won't say no." She wrapped her arms around her torso, and Angel put his coat over her shoulders. "Still a gentleman."

"Sometimes. We're letting Cordy explain this apocalypse to the others."

"Oh yeah."


"Cordelia, could you give us a minute?" Wesley asked after they heard what she had to say.

"I have to get back to the Hyperion anyway. This is time sensitive though, so get back to me by the end of the week, OK?" Cordelia stood up, hugged everyone including Spike, then headed for the door, turning to smile before leaving. "I'll see you all soon."

They waved at her and turned to face each other when the door closed. Wesley words stuck for a moment. "Can we trust Cordelia on this?"

Willow sucked in a breath. "She was a higher power. On the same plane as my Goddess. How can we not trust her?"

"Kinda regretting getting the soul now." Spike sighed. "What do you think, Uncle Connor?"

"Cordelia's the only person in this dimension I trust completely."

"Are we really going to do this?" Willow asked, despondent .

"Looks that way, doesn't it, love?" Spike patted her shoulder. "At least we'll be amongst friends."

She put her hand over his on her shoulder and smiled at him. "There is that I suppose."

Spike eyed Wesley. "This will mean playing your girlfriend. You up to it?"

"Yes." Wesley poured four glasses of his best Scotch and handed them out. "Here's to the end of the world as we know it."

"And we feel fine," Spike said as he raised his glass.

The four drank the whiskey in solemn silence.


Cordelia sat in her room, tears at the corners of her eyes. Just because she knew this was the right thing to do, didn't make it any easier. She looked over her pictures and ran her fingers over momentos, remembering that this world had given her so much joy between the painful moments.

The knock on her door was expected. "Come in."

"Cordelia," Angel said as he closed the door behind him, "we need to talk."

"I know." Cordelia wiped the tears away and looked at him. "Just spit it out already."

"I can't do it. And if you insist on carrying out this insanity, you will have to fight everyone here." Angel's heart broke as he looked at her.

"I understand. But can we have tonight?" Her entire body pleaded with him. "Please, let's be a couple for one night. First real kisses and happy just to be together."

He pulled her to him, kissing her with all the passion he had for her. He poured his heart and soul into her and woke up entangled in her naked embrace.


A dark vengeance magic ripple opened Anya's eyes. Her knowing how dangerous such magics could be got her sedate butt moving. The force field around her would sting and disintegrate her clothes, but there was no way she was staying this close to a vengeance spell that wasn't hers. She teleported herself to her apartment in Sunnydale long enough to shower, dress, and pack, but she knew she had to go back to LA and get Dawn away from the hotel. The best place for both of them would be far far away from the evil she'd felt at the Hyperion.


Wesley exploded inside Lilah and rolled off her. "That was better than average, but I came here to talk to you about a job."

Lilah looked him over. "In what regard?"

"Are there any openings at Wolfram and Hart that would suit my particular skills?"

She wrinkled her brow and searched his face for deception, finding none. She bit her bottom lip as she smiled. "I'm sure if there isn't, I could make you one. I got promoted to President of Special Projects. You could always be my assistant." Lilah kissed the corner of Wesley's mouth.

He wrapped an arm around her and flipped them so he was on top again. "I'll be your assistant if I get to polish your desk with your ass."

"We can polish my desk any way you like as often as I want."

Their kiss was animalistic in its intensity.


"You appear to be suddenly sane," Connor said to Spike as they lounged around what served as a living room in the warehouse. Willow was researching and had kicked them out for being more hindrance than help.

"Guess I needed to find a reason to exist to sort me out."

"So you snapped out of it because you're needed to kick off the apocalypse?"

"I wouldn't say snapped. That's not how it was. It was more of a click. Something Cordelia said when she was explaining the infinity of the universes and dimensions and how small we are in comparison. How small this universe is in the grand scheme and even smaller the planet, the country, the city, and each of us is, set off a chain reaction of thoughts. And if you change your thoughts, you change how you feel and how you behave. Still seeing things that aren't there though. I just know they aren't really there now. Like that demon in the corner over there." Spike pointed to the closest corner to them. "It's not there, is it?"

Connor looked to where Spike pointed. "No, it's not. So why do you call me uncle?"

"Cause you are my uncle for lack of a better term. Angel's like my grandfather so any children or vampires he ever makes or has would be my uncles or aunts. Welcome to the family, mate. Enjoy the insanity that runs through our line. We all succumb at some point." Spike sat up and gave Connor a serious look over. "Or maybe you already did."

Willow left the office with her magic supplies bag. "Where's she off to?" Connor asked.

"To check to see if what the cheerleader told us is true or not, I reckon." Spike yawned and stretched. "Sun's been up for a while now. I should get some peaceful sleep while I can. We've got an apocalypse to start by the end of the week. I suggest you get some rest too."

"Why are you so sure?"

Spike raised an eyebrow at him. "You smelled her didn't you? Ever catch the scent of something so pure in your life?"

"No."

"You've got your answer then, kid. Now let's turn in for the day."


Fred sat on the counter in the lobby with her legs crossed under her, reading another text on Wolfram and Hart. They'd been trying to find a weakness to exploit all summer and had found bupkis so far. She lifted her head when she heard feet on the stairs. "Angel. Did you find Connor?"

"No, but we have more important things to talk about right now. Can you get the others in here so we can talk about it? Cordelia might be the problem so we'll let her sleep." Angel kept his face grim to get the point across.

Winnifred put the book aside and went to collect the group from their various rooms. When they all returned with her, Angel quieted their questions with a sharp, "Let me talk."

Buffy, Gunn, Giles, and Dawn stopped talking reflexively. Fred pushed her glasses up her nose as asked, "Why do you think Cordelia's a problem?"

"Because she wants to end the world. She gave Buffy and me a song and dance about how ending this world would save countless others, but the more I think about it, the more I don't believe that that's Cordelia. I think she's a counterfeit put here to try to seduce us into starting an apocalypse rather than preventing one." Angel watched the silent disbelief for a moment before continuing. "Don't trust her. And keep an eye on her while I'm gone. I think I also figured out how to find my son."


Cordelia walked through the lobby, luggage slung over her shoulder. She ignored the protests of the others as she walked out the door. The person to follow was unsurprising. Oh, how she missed not knowing. "Gunn, there's nothing you can say."

"Tough because I'm going to say it. What happened to you? How could you want to destroy the world you suffered for so much?"

She turned to look at the desperation and confusion on his face. He looked like he needed her to explain more than he needed anything. She set her luggage and hugged him.

As soon as her lips touched his cheek, images of innocents in world after world, universe after universe, dimension after dimension flashed across his vision. They were all suffering at the hands of Wolfram and Hart. So much death and destruction of not just the physical but the spirits too. She let go and his sight cleared. "That's why."

"You only had one shot to share that, didn't you?"

"Yes."

"Why waste it on me?"

"Because you aren't the muscle of the group, you're the heart. And you needed an explanation more than any of the others. I'll understand whatever you do. I didn't show you to try to convince you. I showed you because you're the purist soul I know." She slung her luggage over her shoulder again. "I couldn't trouble you for a ride though, could I?"

"Yeah sure." They got in his truck and pulled into traffic.


The suit and shave felt unnatural on Wesley now. Gone were the days of a routine morning shave and pale grey suits. This suit was tailored but black jacket, slacks, shirt, and vest. The tie was a deep plum Willow picked out for him. She felt the need to hover over him ever since he told her about the perpetuity clause he would have to sign.

With an overly bright watery smile, Willow dusted off Wesley's shoulders. "Imaginary dandruff."

"Willow."

"Don't do it."

"We talked about this."

"I know but I changed my mind again. I know all the reasons we need an inside man that's actually on our side. But don't do it." Her tears flowed unchecked. "You saved my life. Don't make me watch you sell your soul then betray the owners of it. I can't think about you suffering."

"We're all going to suffer. And there's not going to be an end to that suffering. This isn't a sacrifice. It's the smart play. Don't forget you put your resume in with Wolfram and Hart yesterday and so did Connor and Spike. We agreed to see this through." He rubbed her shoulders as she nodded.

"You don't want to be late on your first day."

"No, I don't." He kissed her forehead and left the sleeping quarters. As he walked through the main room, he stopped to have a word with Spike. "Keep close to her. The handkerchiefs are in the top drawer of my dresser."

"Will do."

Connor watched Wesley pull out of the garage door. "I should probably stick close to Willow too."

"Uncle Connor, you have the bedside manner of a pit viper. Leave Willow to me. At least I know how to console someone."

Frowning Connor went to the library and looked up what a pit viper was and then what a bedside manner was. "I'm nicer than a snake."


Lilah greeted Wesley in the lobby. "I got a call from Human Resources. Seems we've gotten a few applications from friends of yours. I wanted to ask you about them."

He fell into step with her. "You're talking about William the Bloody, Willow Rosenberg, and Connor. I told them to apply. They've been freeloading off me long enough. Spike's got a bloodlust that's tempered by good tactical skills. He's got a flare our employers would appreciate. Willow's the most powerful witch in the world, and Connor's superpowers need to be kept occupied. I thought you could give him something on which to focus."

"Spike has a soul, Willow has a long history of fighting evil, and Connor was raised by a man so anti-demon he raised him in hell rather than see Angel raise him. These are blips the Senior Partners don't like to see on a resume." When the elevator doors opened Lilah glared at the other employees waiting, so that her and Wesley had the car to themselves.

"Spike's still killing humans, Willow flayed a man alive then tried to end the world, and Connor's got a cruel streak to rival anyone here."

They got off the elevator, and they entered her office. "I could keep Willow on retainer and there's a team leader position open in tactical as of last night no current employee is qualified for; Spike would be a good candidate. And Connor can be part of Internal Clean-up."

"Won't Spike's vampirism hinder his ability to lead a tactical unit?"

"I can put in an order for a Gem of Amara, consider it a personal favor. Now, I need an analysis of the projects on your desk complete with estimates on overhead and manpower. But first," she slipped a document off her desk, "sign this contract."

"Yes, ma'am."


Gunn sat in the courtyard weighing everything he knew about Cordelia, the apocalypse she dropped in their laps, and the visions he saw. What he was looking for was a solution to all the problems and he hadn't thought of anything yet. What they needed was a place to contain Wolfram and Hart that didn't have innocent people in it.

"Whatcha thinking about?" Fred asked, sitting on the edge of the fountain.

"Can we find a way to evacuate all the innocent people to another universe?"

"We can look, but the only way would be mystical. We- There are other people better suited to that kind of search."

"I know where Wes is staying. I dropped Cordelia there a few hours ago. We need this done right, and I don't care what we have to say to get him to help us, we're getting him to help us." Gunn stood up and took Fred's hand.

She smiled brightly. "Then let's get on it."


Dawn jumped when Anya appeared in her room. "Give me a heart-attack! Giles has been polishing a hole in his glasses looking for you."

"We need to leave." Anya picked up Dawn's suitcase and started packing it. "Now."

"Anya? What is it?" Dawn studied what she could see of Anya's face.

"Among other things the world is about to end. I know a guy who can get us to another dimension, but we should act fast."

Dawn threw her arms around Anya's neck. "I love you. But I can't go. I have to fight that apocalypse."

"Don't be stupid. Let's go."

"I'm sorry, Anya, but I can't go." Dawn stepped back.

"I'm not leaving you here. You're the only one that took my side."

"Don't make this harder. I have to stay."

Anya flopped on the bed. "Well, I guess I'm staying too even though I know I'll regret it."


Ankles crossed on his desk, Angel sipped some bourbon. "Mental note: buy better booze while I can."


"I didn't expect to see you… this soon," Cordelia smiled brightly appreciating being surprised for the first time since returning. She called into the warehouse, "Gunn and Fred are here!"

Connor stalked over as Gunn and Fred entered. "Is Wesley going to be OK with people knowing where we are?"

"That's the first thing you say to us after sinking your father to the bottom of the ocean?" Fred's disgust dripped off the words.

"He's fine." Connor shrugged. "Wes will be pissed though."

"He won't care. We're moving in a couple days." Cordelia scoffed with a wave of her hand, and Connor rolled his eyes and walked away.

"And give up all this?" Gunn asked. "This looks like how I used to live. Where is Wes anyway? We need to talk to him."

"At work. He left before I got here. But is there something I can do?"

Fred pushed her glasses up her nose. "We wanted to get as many innocent people to another dimension before the big show goes down as possible."

"Willow's already working on it. She's in Wesley's office if you want to help her." Cordy pointed to a room walled off from the rest of the open space that had a huge window. Inside Willow had six books open in front of her. From behind one wall a man with bleach blond hair came into view to look over her shoulder.

"Who's that with her?"

"That's Spike."

"The vamp that attacked Buffy. That Spike?" Gunn asked now suspicious.

"That was before he got a soul. He's harmless as a kitten now."

"I heard that!" Spike yelled from the office.

"And your point?" Cordelia turned back to Fred and Gunn. "I'd offer you something but for how many people live here, there's little in the way of food. But we've got water, straight from the tap of course, but at least it's wet."

Fred bounced to the refrigerator. "I'm sure I can whip…" when she saw the lack of contents her face fell, "nothing up."

"That's OK. We'll just see what Willow needs us to do," Gunn said. The couple went to the office.

"It's not that simple, Spike!" Willow stood, so she was on the same level as the vampire. "I can trans dimensionally shift only about a hundred people at a time without hurting them with just the spell, but the thing about dimensions is that they shift and move, constantly splitting off into new ones. We need a stable form of a mass transportation. Not to mention we'll have to split the population. We can't send them all to one place or we risk them overpopulating their new planet, potentially creating a mass extinction."

"You're the most powerful witch in the world. So make a new spell."

"You really are brain dead aren't you? The mathematical algorithms and quantum science is far above my abilities. That's why there isn't a spell that already exists."

"Then what the bloody hell have we been trying to find for the last hour?" Spike yelled.

"A pattern. Something that unifies the trans dimensional spells, so I have a damn starting point for this hail mary play."

They both yelled, "Idiot!"

Fred cleared her throat when the yelling fell way to glowering. "I can help with the math and science."

Whatever Fred expected it wasn't for Willow to crumble into tears and Spike to wrap his arms around her. "There, there, pet. We're doing the right thing."

"What just happened?" Gunn whispered to Fred.

"I have no idea. There wasn't a chart for either of them."


Giles rubbed his forehead Anya glared at him. "Anya, what do you want me to say?"

"That you'll stop trying to kill me so I can protect Dawn."

"Fine," he said with a sigh.

Dawn squealed and kissed Giles' cheek. "Thank you!"


Angel whistled as he danced up the basement stairs. When he opened the door, Anya was standing there, stake in hand.

"Anya! Good to see you."

"I will not let you hurt Dawn or my plans, Angelus." She punched him in the sternum, sending him flying.

He landed on his back with an oomph. "Uh oh, someone knows my secret."

The sentence was barely finished when Anya jumped down and straddled him. She placed the stake to his chest and broke his wrist without effort when he tried to slap it away. "This is the only reminder you'll get. I'm a vengeance demon. We're stronger than vampires and a lot harder to kill. And I did not spend the last three years of my existence playing a love sick wimp even fooling D'Hoffryn for you to mess up my plans now."

With a full strength she punched him so his head cracked the cement under it, and he passed out.

She blew some blue dust on him. "Or I'll just wipe out your memory and have someone re-ensoul you."


Everyone at the warehouse except Spike and Connor startled when Anya appeared at the end of the kitchen table while they were taking a break and eating take out.

"Goddess, Anya," Willow gasped.

"Angel lost his soul. Put it back."

Willow sighed and stood. "I have an extra Orb of Thesalah in my dresser."

"Unnecessary," Cordelia said. "Hey Anya, I wish Angel had a permanent soul."

"Wish granted." Then the vengeance demon disappeared in a wisp of smoke.

"I like that method way better," Willow said sitting back down. "The Ritual of the Undead leaves you nauseous for days. Pass the Chow Mein, please, ooh and another veggie roll."

Connor passed her the food.

"She eats as much as you do," Gunn said to Fred.

"Don't get any ideas, mister."


Buffy found Angel when she took her laundry to the basement. "Angel!" She tossed her basket over the railing and rushed to his side.

He sat up with a groan, scratching the dry blood off the back of his head. His other wrist shot pains up his arm when he turned it, telling him it was broken. With a jerk, he snapped it back into place then wrapped it with one of Buffy's dirty towels. "Agh, what happened?"

"You don't know?" Buffy saw the dent and cracks in the floor where Angel's head had been. "Can vampires get so head hurt they get amnesia?"

"Only temporarily. Wouldn't last more than a week."

"Except we need to know what happened to you now. Something strong enough to do that to you needs handled fast."

Angel glanced at the head imprint in the concrete and winced again. "Agreed. I need to talk to Cordelia though."

"She left this morning. Not surprising considering how the others took the news of the latest apocalypse." At his blank look, she asked, "What's the last thing you remember?"

"We were in her room, uh, talking. She was crying."

"We'll call Gunn. He dropped her off somewhere this morning. Not that he would tell anyone where though." Buffy picked her laundry off the floor, hiding her face. "Let me get a load in the wash first. Meet you upstairs, OK?"

"OK."

When he was gone, Buffy gasped in pain, knowing that talking was not what they were doing in her room. Tears threatened, but she forced air in to stop them.


The visitation booths weren't something Faith saw often. Occasionally Angel would stop by, but that was it. No one else. So when she got called to talk to her lawyer, she shrugged and took the chance to talk to someone from the outside. Nothing prepared her for seeing Wesley, in a black suit sitting there waiting for her. She thought she'd made it clear when he called that she wasn't interested.

They picked up their phones. "You my lawyer now, Wes?"

"In a sense. I do work for Wolfram and Hart now, which is what I wanted to talk to you about."

"I'm not buying any pitch your selling for those freaks."

"Do you really think they'd help you after what happened before?"

"Point taken. So what do you want then?"

He explained the upcoming apocalypse and what was at stake, and how he knew. "What I need from you is to aid Willow. When she evacuates the innocents, she'll need help when the hammer comes down. We need to keep her safe."

"Red's not exactly my biggest fan."

"She asked for you specifically."

"Really?"

"She said you were the only person who would understand doing evil things without being evil. Given who she lives with, I thought it rather telling."

"What's the timeline?"

"Uncertain but if we're going to pull it off before the curtains close it'll be within the week. We need you as soon as possible."

"Step away from the glass."


"Back by popular demand," Faith said as she smiled at the group staring at her. Willow however wasn't so calm, she teared up and hugged Faith like they'd been close friends separated by tragedy. "Miss me, Red?"

Willow let go. "Sorry. I just get it now. And I'm so sorry for how I treated you."

"It's all good. Five by five, right?"

"Right. What does that mean anyway?" Willow laced her arm through Faith's as she guided her away from the front door.

"It's a radio term. Means there's no static on the line. It's the best possible signal."

"Huh. You'd think I'd remember something like that." Willow blushed. "I studied radios before getting into computers."

"So where am I sleeping? And please tell me it's private."

"Sorry, we all sleep in one room here. The beds are pretty nice though. Through here," Willow said as she pointed.

Faith looked at the beds and saw that all of them were unmade. "So is there a free bed?"

"Oh. Um, no, that's Connor and Spike's bunk beds, Wes is over there and Cordelia just took that one. Mine's the last one on the right. I don't know where we'd put another bed. I mean the main room is huge but we use it for training more than anything else. A bed would be an obstacle."

"You and Wes have big beds. I can share with one of you, or you can share with each other. I forget, which team do you bat for these days?" Faith nudged Willow to let her know she was teasing.

"Team pink. But if that doesn't weird you out, you can share with me. I don't actually take up much room on that bed. But I will have to clear off the papers and laptops." Willow set words to action. "Wes said we were moving soon. We'll make sure you have your own bed then."

"Let me give you a hand." Faith picked up a pile of papers and set them on Willow's dresser. "I thought Wes was lying when he said you asked for me."

"He wasn't! I mean, I know Spike has a soul now and is trying to do the redemption thing. And Connor needs to kerb his violent outbursts. Wes is guilty of kidnapping, and he's been trying to make up for that. But I killed a couple people, well calling them people might be a stretch even if it is technically true, but then I tried to destroy the world. All from grief. I was traumatized, and you would know how that feels better than anyone. You were traumatized too. You know, when you went dark side for a while." Willow set her two laptops on top of the papers on her dresser, now within Faith's personal space. "And did I apologize? I was horrible to you when you needed someone the most. I'm so…"

"Sorry, got that. Don't sweat it. We're even since I punched you, held a knife to your throat, and threatened to kill you." Faith pursed her lips and twisted her body awkwardly. "I am glad you asked for me though."

Willow smiled in relief. "Me too."


Cordelia glared at Wesley. "What were you thinking bring miss homicidal lunatic here?"

"She's no worse than Angel. She's working toward redemption like the rest of us. How can she do that behind bars? It's a waste and you know it." Wesley loosened his tie then rolled up his sleeves as he sat at his desk. "Is this what Willow was researching earlier?"

"Yeah, and Fred was helping her out with the science and math. They think they might have a solution in a few days. I just hope it's soon enough."

"Fred was here?"

"Gunn brought her."

"It's a good thing we're moving. Too many people know how to find us. Not a smart move when your friends will be enemies." Wesley picked up the phone. "Can you give me some privacy?"

"Sure." Cordelia crinkled her brow and left the room. What was he up to?


"Thank you for calling, Xander." Giles hung up the phone.

"What did Xander need?" Dawn asked as she popped a french fry in her mouth and turned the page of another book on Wolfram and Hart.

"The police called. Faith was let out of prison today. A technicality. They were calling Buffy to warn her since the last time Faith was free, she went after her." Giles took his glasses off and pressed his eyes with his forefinger and thumb before putting them back on.

Dawn nearly choked on her food. "Oh. Please tell me she's with Wesley. That she's still trying to get better and her getting out won't derail her search for a better self."

"Cordelia gave me this card with Wesley's number on it. I'm hoping it's still working." The phone rang before he could make a call though. "Hello?"

"Mr. Giles, I'm glad you're still awake. I thought I'd apprise you of the new roll call here." Wesley's voice sounded tired.

"I take it Faith is among your numbers now. As is Cordelia." Giles sighed when Wesley confirmed this. "Are you working with Cordelia?"

"We are. Not without thought mind you, but if we can trap the entirety of Wolfram and Hart in one dimensional universe then we must take that opportunity. It's unfortunate that this is the one that will suffer for it, but what else are we to do? Let all but one universe in one dimension suffer unending pain and suffering at the hands of that evil?"

"Stop trying to convert me. It won't happen. I've sworn to protect this sorry world and I plan on doing just that. If you were wise you'd see the error in judgement you're making and stop this madness. Cordelia can't succeed on her own. Our only hope at surviving is to stop her now."

Dawn watched Giles' face get red as his temper flared. While he'd been shouting Fred and Gunn returned catching enough of the conversation to get the gist. Fred whispered to Gunn, "Maybe we shouldn't say anything yet?"

"Agreed." Gunn trotted down the few stairs into the lobby as Giles slammed the phone down.

"Bloody pillock!"

"Giles?" Dawn asked. "What should I be researching? Wolfram and Hart or how to stop Cordelia?"

"The two are not mutually exclusive. If she wants to trap Wolfram and Hart, we can help with that, but it won't be this dimension or universe that pays the price. There's an innumerable amount of hells. We'll trap them all in one of those." Giles sighed and walked into the office, slamming the door behind him.

Buffy came up from the basement and Angel came down the stairs. "What was all that about?"

"Wesley recruited Faith and they're working for Cordelia." Dawn closed her book and moved to sit behind the computer. Willow had taught her a good bit about them so she was going to try to track Wesley down. She needed to hear it from them. She needed to hear why they felt there were no other options.

"I have to get to her. She's only just started her recovery. This would destroy her." Angel charged out the door with Buffy on his heels.

"You don't even know where they are. You've thought you'd figured it out a few times but were never right. Where are you going to go?"

"I don't care if I have to scour the entire city. I refuse to let Faith slip down that dark path again." Angel looked both way before deciding on left.

Buffy continued to follow. With him in this state, she wanted to stay close so she could pull him back inside when the sun came up.

What they didn't know was that Anya was following them, using a few tricks to keep them away from Wesley and his crew. No wishes of course, but a few other spells that she could still do.


Xander knew little about what was going on in LA, but he knew he wasn't needed in Sunnydale and things in the big city were more dire. So he packed a bag and got in his car.




The council sat around their table of important decision making.

“We need to keep the Exodus ships here in case of emergency. Besides, we don’t want to risk any more lives than we have to. The probes were helpful, showing us the most practical place to send the volunteers, but there was still heavy demonic activity there. We could only send ten.” Thelonious said.

“Do the clones know what they are and why they’re so willing to go?” Abby asked.

“No but we’ll tell them during their trip. That should be all they need.” Kane seemed to not care about any of the volunteers.

“I disagree.” Abby couldn’t stand how Kane treated people.

“We all know how you feel.” Thelonious stopped her before she could get a good head of steam going.

“Who all of our actual people are going?” Kane asked.

Jaha reviewed his notes. “We kept the number to a minimum. Three of them prisoners. Monty Green volunteered, and we don't know why he would. He was due for release in two months. John Murphy doesn’t want to risk getting floated since he murdered a guard. I’m sorry but Clarke also volunteered.”

“I thought she might. Don’t worry. I’m okay. Who else?” Abby’s tough exterior wasn’t convincing.

“Raven Reyes. She’s a mechanic and something of a thrill seeker. She has no family to speak of, so we’re not surprised she wanted to go. She likes doing things no one else has before.” Thelonious looked around the small group. “Is there anything else we need to go over before launching the pod?”

Abby raised her hand. “I want to review the status of the clones one more time.”

“That’s probably wise.” Kane surprised everyone with his agreement.

Thelonious checked his tablet. “Connor has had to be kept prisoner most of his life because of his super strength, but he’s been guided to do nothing but protect people. This programing seems to effective. Buffy Summers ended up in the Sky Box for stealing rations for sick prisoners, she was supposed to have superpowers but we've never seen any. Winifred Burkle has an eidetic memory and has studied all our resources. Wesley-Wyndam Pryce while clumsy and awkward, has command over magic that no one else has shown aptitude. Cordelia Chase is pragmatic and a skilled fighter though it seems she has no filter when she talks to people. And Charles Gunn who is also pragmatic and has exceptional fighting skills but has more social skills than Ms. Chase.”

Kane clicked his nails on the table. “So we’ve got a meek genius, an adrenaline junkie, a pothead, a klutz, a traitor, a bleeding heart, a pit bull, a murderer, and two pragmatists with fighting skills, one suave and one tactless. Great, we’re all saved.”

“How long until launch?” Abby asked wanting to visit her daughter before she got sent to die.

“There was a mishap with the timing and they launched twenty minutes ago, and should be listening to the message I recorded for them as we speak.”


The volunteers watched their Chancellor on the screen but it fizzed and popped rather than any speech coming through the speakers. Fred caught the word ‘clones’ but didn’t understand that, since cloning technology had been lost when the Hellmouth opened.

When half the lights burst and the screen cracked with a sudden impact, they knew they’d hit the atmosphere.

“Or we could die sooner rather than later,” Cordelia said. “Why did I agree to this again?”

“Same reason all of us did, to save the last of the human race.” Wesley looked to his other side and saw Connor. If it weren’t for the rise and fall of his chest Wesley would have thought the boy dead. “Some of us care less than others.”

"Something's off. We're not slowing down enough," Fred said. "At this velocity we'll be lucky to survive the crash."

"Crash? As in 'oh god oh god we're all going to die?'" Gunn asked.

"Fraid so." Fred missed her glasses. Not that not needing them wasn't great, but they gave her a distraction when she needed one, and she needed one now.

"They must have over-packed the provisions," Raven said. "This ship wasn't rigged to take on more than the ten of us and a hundred pounds of extra. If I'm feeling this right, then we've got a couple hundred extra pounds on board."

"I saw the supply box get weighed as they were loading it," Monty said. "One hundred pounds exactly."

"Stowaways?" Clarke asked. "Who would want to risk coming to Earth?"

"Someone needs to find out." Murphy unbuckled his seatbelt. "They'd have to be on the lower level."

Raven undid her belt. "I need to go with him. Changes to our descent need to be made now. Hope I get the math right."

"I'm a wiz at math!" Fred said as she too got out of her seat.

Before they even got the hatch open, the ship decelerated to a safe speed. They're landing was so soft that those not in their seats didn't even feel it.

"We need to see what's going on," Clarke said as she got out of her seat. "Wesley you're with me, Raven, Fred, check all the electronics, see if we can talk to the Ark. Buffy, Monty, Cordelia, Gunn, Murphy, and Connor, scout our surroundings, stay together and work as a team."

Wesley followed Clarke down the ladder. "And what are we doing?"

"Checking for stowaways, we can use all the help we can get down here."

The door to the drop ship peeled away like sardine can, revealing a band of what looked like people. The one in front gave the order, "Get the walking happy meals someplace safe. Every demon from here to the other coast had to see this ship land. Go, go, go!"

Buffy hit the man over the head with a rung she pulled from the ladder. "Stop! We're not going anywhere!"

Clarke checked on the man with the head wound. "Are you OK?"

"Fine, love." He looked up at Buffy's scowling face. "Oh goddess, it can't be. Willow am I seeing what I think I'm seeing?"

A woman with black eyes, hair, and veins walked onto the ship. She licked an unflinching Buffy. "She's close but not quite. Too close to be a descendent, but it's not her. A clone is my guess."

"Clones!" Fred squealed. "That's what Thelonious was saying in his broadcast. That some of us are clones."

"Fred?" He looked the new arrivals over. "Gunn? Wesley? Connor? Cordelia? I feel like I'm losing my mind."

"Spike calm down. They aren't your friends, they're just clones. It will be interesting to see how the Blue Meanie takes to seeing Fred though." Willow floated to the middle of the ship. "There are two more hiding in the floor." With a wave of her hand, Willow opened the floor in a single metal grinding rip. "Lookie what we have here. Two mice living below the floor, but only one's used to it."

"Bellamy?" Octavia said with a voice laced with fear.

"I got you, O." Bellamy uncurled until he was standing, bringing Octavia with him. "We'll be fine."

"You will be," Willow agreed. "But only because we like Spike. Isn't that right, Anyanka?"

"He's Illyria's pet, your best friend, and my fuck buddy. Plus Fray has taken a shine to him. I think it's safe to say she wouldn't want to hurt them either." Anyaka leaned in the doorway wearing black like the others.

Clarke got a better look at their outfits. They were made of skin, but nothing she'd ever seen a picture of before. "I don't think we have much choice in the matter do we?"

Wesley sighed. "I don't think we do. Buffy, Connor, keep your eyes sharp, but we will follow these creatures to what they say is safety."

Chapter Text



















Chapter Text





Chapter Text

Chapter 1: Buffyverse - Maybe but No

It was a craving she almost never had. Willow knew that she preferred women, but the sight of this androgynous male pulled out of her a desire to be filled by a man. She hadn't experienced this kind of want since Oz left her for the second time. The more she fantasized the more she realized that all she wanted was a vague fantasy. When the daydreaming got too real, her insides were no longer aflame with hunger, but nausea. So the inclination dissipated, and she smiled at Kennedy, her body still needy with a thirst for sweaty animalistic sex.


The 100 - Bellamy/Murphy

Bellamy's touch electrified Murphy. It didn't matter that there was no love lost between them, they shared a kind of gluttony for merciless sex. The kind that left bruises, bite marks, and deep scratches in its wake. Animalistic at its best and satisfyingly raunchy at its worst, they could never leave each other be. They corrupted instead of nurtured. They beat instead of caressed. There was no admiration for the other outside how delicious they made the pain. Murphy's bites were deadly, and Bellamy cracked a belt better than any whip. Carnal agony turned into euphoria each and every time.


Buffyverse - Lascivious Spander

 

"I see that lascivious look," Xander said. "Even if you rock my world, you aren't getting the Cheetos. But I might let you pick the next movie."

"You'd like that wouldn't you?" Spike licked his front teeth. "For me to be boring enough to rock your world as you so wittily put it."

"So let's see if you can outdo that last blowjob." Xander smirked as Spike puckered his lips.

"I have something else in mind." Spike turned the volume up on the TV. "Don't want the 'rents to hear any of the filthy things you say when you cum."


Haven - Touchless

Love without the ability to touch made intimacy a challenge, but Jordan and Duke were up for it. He would caress or inflict as she saw fit. Today he stroked knowing it was up to her if he got to climax. He couldn't hold out much longer, but she kept saying, "Not yet," while she ran ice over every curve of her body, leaving a moist trail of drool-worthy goosebumps.

"Hands off." Her devious smirk told him he'd better comply, so he let himself go, hands in the air. "Did I ruin it for you?"

"Only in the best way."


Sense8 - Vein Deep

The connection between them was slick. They flowed through each other, around each other, into each other as blood through veins. Will knew what it was to be gay because he wasn't just him, he was Lito as well. There was exaltation in being with a man. Those feelings being as profound as any time he'd been with a woman. And now, in his drugged haze, he relived that gratification, hoping to share it one day with Riley, to share it with all of them. He knew Nomi, Lito and Wolfgang, but he wanted Sun, Capheus, Riley and Kala too.


Continuum - Slaked

 

Jasmine slithered on the silk sheets waiting for Kiera to get over the aversion she had to being with a woman as if it were nefarious. They went through this every time, but when Cameron gave in she devoured Garza like she was parched and nothing but the cream between Jasmine's legs would slake that thirst. Kiera primly slid off her robe and between the sheets. The first kiss tentative, melting away Cameron's prudish ways. The second was made of fire and a yearning so deep, it threatened to swallow them.

Pulling back, Kiera whispered, "I love you."

"Love you."


Buffyverse - Repertoire

Giles held a secret. Something he would never tell anyone, not even his lover, Willow. His passion for her had been inflamed his first Halloween in the States. In that outfit she was everything he'd ever wanted in his Ripper days. And he dreamed about what it would have been like to have such a vixen on his arm back then. Now, older but no less alluring, in front of people she remained conservative, but in the bedroom, with him, alone, she assailed him with depraved titillation. Her zeal turned them into horny teenagers, but with a larger sexual repertoire.


Buffyverse - Amorous

Rhapsody were the moments Tara looked at her with that small smile. Buffy never thought she'd feel like this about another woman, especially not a woman that had been dating her best friend. But Tara lifted her out of the darkest place she'd ever been, and somewhere along the way, appreciation turned to love and brought a heaping helping of lust with it. Kissing Tara was as close to religious Buffy thought she could ever get. No altars needed. Buffy simply gave thanks by treating Tara with thoughtfulness and respect. Just the way Tara treated everyone, but with more romance.


Buffyverse -Tinted Red

Lick. Caress. Whisper. Taste. Touch. Pressing against each other, taking turns, the three of them wound together as if linked. Buffy let go for the first time in weeks, allowing Faith and Willow take the leads. She would bow down to them if they wanted for how safe and secure she was in their space. Their darkness tinted all things red with bites, whips, ropes, and scratches. In this space Buffy trusted when no other time she could. With them she was more comfortable than with anyone else. No need to fight or struggle unless she that's what she wanted.

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