All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…

[Fan Fiction] Fumbling Toward Ecstasy (2000)

Note: This is a copy of the original piece posted online, and thus includes a variety of incredibly amusing spelling and grammer errors from younger-Addy.

Prologue

“Are you insane?! We’re supposed to kill the bitch, not leave gag gifts in the friends’ beds,” Spike scolded.

“But Spike,” Drusilla said in reply. “The bad teacher was going to restore Angel’s soul,”

“What if she did? If you ask me I’m finding myself preferring the old Buffy-whipped Angelus. This new improved one is not playing with the full sack,” He paused, his anger ringing home to both the intolerant Angelus, and the clawing Drusilla. “I love a good slaughter as much as the next bloke, but his little pranks will only leave us with one incredibly brassed-off slayer!”

“Don’t worry Roller Boy. I’ve got everything under control,” Angelus said.

As soon as he did a hastily made fire-bomb tailed through the air and crashed onto the table before them, igniting into flame. Spike, Dru and Angel separated as another bomb tore in behind them, a shadow kicking in through the door and launching a crossbow bolt hurtling through the air.

It struck Angel hard, ripping through his flesh and pinning him to a wooden panel. Growling in pain he reached up, tugging himself free and slammed his game-face on as the attacker bore down. A sturdy rod was ignited from the blaze before cracking across Angelus’ face several times, flooring him.

He looked up in mock agony. “Jeez, whatever happened to wooden stakes?” His attacker whacked him again.

Dru lunged forward, her fangs bared, as Giles stepped through the flames to strike Angel again. Spike however had other plans, his grip tight on Dru’s arm he pulled her back with a smile, Angel feeling Giles’ foot heavy into his chest. “Uh-uh. No fair going into the ring unless he tags you first!”

Angel roared to his full stance, grabbing the stick from Giles and snapping it across a nearby beam.

Lunging forward he grabbed the middle-aged librarian and spun him into a pillar. “All right. You’ve had your fun,” He followed with a hefty uppercut that cracked across Giles’ face with a burst of blood. “But you know what it’s time for now?” Angelus smirked with a vicious blow to Giles’ rib-cage. He felt a blow slam into the back of his head, a pair of hands grabbing his upper torso, and soon he was flying into another pillar whilst being kicked in the face by a fashionable shoe.

“MY FUN!” The blonde slayer yelled, arriving quickly onto the scene. Her original barrage of blows followed up by a combination of attacks that left Angelus spinning. Spike panicked and twisted his chair. One pissed off librarian may be, but add a slayer and it spoils the odds big time. Dru grabbed Spike’s handles and wheeled him away fast.

The scene they left was heating up, Giles now lay practically unconscious on the floor with the flames licking ever closer and higher to his body. Buffy was on the railings above exchanging blows with Angelus, each causing the other intense pain and neither really getting anywhere with it. Improvising, Buffy grabbed a length of rope and swung it tight round Angel’s neck, yanking him back and forth against the railings. Letting him fall back she followed her attack up with a couple of kicks to the chest that forces him over. Leaping up she grabbed an overhanging pipe and swung herself into a kick so powerful he nearly toppled to the floor below. He growled in retaliation, diving forward with passion.

She was too quick for him even now, dodging aside to watch him crash into the railings once more. She reached for her stake; gone! Twisting back to Angelus all she saw was his smirking face. “You just gonna let your old man burn!?” Buffy glanced below, seeing flames licking at Giles’ tweed jacket.

She was suddenly off her feet, flipped over by Angel and dropping to the floor below. She landed on both feet with enough time to watch her ex dash out the factory through the fire exit. That’s exactly where they needed to be. Half dragging, half carrying a now waking Giles she made it to the nearest door, kicked it open, and hauled them both out. Giles was quick to break free, pushing her away.

“Why did you come here? This wasn’t your fight?”

His unsympathetic tone was met by a near tearful Buffy, who lashed out with a thundering right hook that dropped the middle aged man to the ground and out of his senses. He lay there for a moment, tears sobbing in his eyes. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?” He heard her cry, and then he was in her arms, and they were crying together. “You can’t leave me! I can’t do this without you!”

“And I can’t do this without you lover!”

Buffy felt a heavy hand lunge at her throat; it lifted her clear off the floor and tossing her into the corrugated wall of the burning factory. It was hot to touch, and burned her arm as it smashed against it. She was quick to retaliate; spinning round almost the minute she hit the floor to block an incoming punch from Angel and retaliating with a kick to his midriff followed by a higher blow to his head. He staggered back to regain his balance before diving forward to exchange skilled blows with the slayer.

Giles meanwhile dragged himself up and turned to watch Angel launching Buffy through the only glass window that remained of the distraught building. “Buffy!” Angelus spun with a fanged smile. “Don’t fret Rupert, she’ll only be in for a few moments. Just can’t stand the taste of raw teenage flesh, way too sweet for my palate. Crusty old Englishman are what I like for starters!” His face received another hefty kick that pushed him back.

“Now this is too much!” Without even looking at this new attacker he lashed out with his hand, finding it miss the target, and a second blow catch him in the back, pushing him to eat the dirt.

“How’s that for your palate?” Buffy quipped, her hair singed from the fire. “When will you bad guys ever learn that making with the funny only gives the hero more time to fight back,”

“Well this ain’t the movies little girl,” Angelus kicked up from the floor, upsetting Buffy’s balance and tossing her body to the dirt ridden ground. “Now where have I seen this before?” Angel said as he sat over her body. “Oh yeah? That night you made me. You weren’t wearing anything then! Let me just thank you from the bottom of my heart that you’ve decided to today. Don’t think I could have stomached it twice.”

They were interrupted with a sudden explosion that ripped up from the gas mains of the factory to its thin walled exterior. The force of which knocked Angel a few feet away, downed Giles, and gave Buffy enough of a chance to push up and escape from the overbearing Angel. In the background they could hear sirens, Angel producing a smile. “Looks like the Calvary my love. What to do?”

“We’ll continue some other time!”

“You bet we will my dear,” Drusilla shocked Buffy as she emerged from the shadows with a forceful attack that left her unconscious, the last thing she saw was Giles being hauled into Dru’s arms as she made her way toward Angel.

Then it all went black.

Part I : Sans Passion

“So…you gonna kill him or am I?”

“Be my guest Spike.” Angelus said with a smile, Spike just turned to him with a pissed-off frown. “Oh yeah. Forgot. You can’t get up there can you, being so obsessed with your driving lessons and all.”

Angel has purposely hung Giles, still alive, fifteen feet above them. “Let me know if I can assume control of your gear stick for any matters, I’m sure we can work something out,”

“Can I kill the itsy witsy book worm?” Drusilla purred from behind, stroking first Angel’s neck then Spike’s. His scar had nearly healed now.

“Oh baby I’m afraid not, I’ve got a little something Mr Librarian here may come in handy for…and that’s not an offer Wheels…this guy’s gonna end the world.”

“Really?” Spike was not impressed. “He gonna bore us to death with Emily Dickinson or just hope Jane Austen’ll do the trick.”

“You’ll see…”

Three vamps, each dressed in your common or garden contemporary gear; jeans, dark shirts, glazed expression snuck round the back of the museum. These weren’t your ‘stooge’ type vamps though, these three meant business. They moved like ninjas, through the darkness and over the wall, up to the acquisitions door. One of them produced a device that fired a bolt that short circuited the alarm system, whilst the other two undid the lock. Then they entered, closing the door behind them.

Sunnydale Museum was one of the few touristy parts of the town, along with the Zoo, it was the standard school trip location. It was much like any other museum really, lots of paintings and weird artefacts only those that worked there could identify. Every now and then a travelling exhibit came to stay, which was set up in the temporary rooms, and all Buffy need do was wait a few days and hell would most likely break out. This is what the Vamps had come for; an exhibition housing artefacts supposedly from ancient mythology. A few pots that Hercules had supposedly used, and the weaponry that Arthur’s knights fought in battle with; less Excalibur. That was all heresay though, these vamps had strict orders why they were here, and what they were after: a small carved statuette of the Goddess Hethra; the culture of whom had long since been forgotten by most living souls.

Chiselled out of igneous rock, fashioned from the solidified lava that had destroyed a town, this was a prime example of ancient erotica for the sake of it. Hethra looked just as good in clothes as out, and if the real thing had been anything like this artists interpretation then any male who met her would have thought themselves the luckiest alive.

One of the vamps cut the glass, aware of the secondary alarm system that had been rigged up, and gripped the small figure in his right hand. Slowly he pulled it back out the cut hole and placed it into his sack. Whilst he did this, the second vampire replaced the cut glass and resealed it into position. The third stood guard at the door, watching the corridor in case of unscheduled visits from the staff – who would usually be at home by now. The statue baring vampire nodded at the other two and cautiously they made their way down the corridor to the door they had entered through.

Joyce couldn’t believe it. How could she do anything so trivial as forget her keys! She had a seventeen year old daughter at home – she hoped – who was going through hell after the murder of one of her teachers. It was killing her not being able to be there for her, if only she’d remembered her damn keys! She glanced up to the road as she made the indication to turn into the museum’s car park, screamed, and braked hard. The figures she had seen parted fast, one diving to the left, the second over the car; and the third smacking hard into the bonnet. He smashed the windscreen on impact and flew a few feet to the right before skidding to a halt beneath a tree. To Joyce, everything froze. Her mind raced. Her pulse beating beyond recognition. As soon as she found the strength she cranked the door open, unbuckled her seat belt, and hobbled out into the road. Slowly, she moved toward the fallen figure, the one she had HIT with her car. God what was she gonna do? Had she killed him? Her.

What if it were a kid! A little kid? Whose mom was worried sick about them. Oh God. She could see him stirring, and this gave her such a euphoric sense of relief she sighed heavily. “I’m sorry?!” She called out.

“Excuse me, Joyce Summers?” A calm voice asked from behind; the vampire with the glass cutting equipment.

“Yes!” She responded, hoping it was a paramedic. Or a policeman. Anyone. “I think he’s hurt, I think he needs some help,” Her panic was what told her not to look round.

“He does.” He produced a small mobile phone and flipped it out before speaking into the receiver.

“Yeah, ambulance please, better send the cops to, we gotta hit and run down here. I saw everything. Down at the museum, some woman, she just hit this guy and drove off. Nothing.” He hung up, waited for the realisation and confusion to hit Joyce, then he smashed the phone he avily across her face and flipped it back into its holder.

The vampire with the statue emerged from the bushes and approached. “Don’t kill her, Angelus wants her.” He reached down and hauled the unconscious woman onto his shoulder. “You go, I’ll stay here and wait for the cops.”

The remaining creature of darkness checked around him, hearing the faint sounds of sirens. Usually it would be time for him to make haste at those sounds. He slid his game face off and glanced down at his fallen brother who would be fine given time, he’d been in far better scrapes. They all had. A few metres behind he heard the first cop car screech up, and he turned; panic stricken and sobbing.

“Name?”

“He’s my brother. He will be okay! Won’t he?”

“Yes sir, he will. The wounds seem superficial, we just need to get him to hospital to check him out.

Now. Can I have your name please,” The cop asked a second time. “Charles…Charles Topping. That’s my brother. Ben. He will be okay?”

“Yes sir, I’m sure he will. Now, did you get the car’s license plate,”

“No.”

“You did see the car…?”

“Yes officer, but I didn’t get the licence plate. I’m sorry. I thought it would be okay if I just told you who was driving.”

“You saw the driver,”

“Yes officer. It was Mrs Summers, Joyce Summers. I’ve seen her dropping her daughter off at the school. I was dropping Phoenix off…my…brothers daughter. Joyce Summers, it was her.”

“Thank you sir…you do understand we’ll have to call you in for a line up after we’ve brought her in.”

“Just tell me Benny’s gonna be okay,” He was smiling his vamp fangs off inside – god he was good at this.

“Did you get it?” Angelus forced himself upon the returning vamp, who handed him the statue with care.

“We got you a little extra, also,” He dropped Joyce to the stone floor, and stared back at Angelus. “A gift, master. No extra charge.”

Angel wasn’t listening, as soon as he saw Buffy’s mom unconscious before him his eyes had lit up.

Buffy stood beside Jenny’s grave, the name carved there disguising the pain of her reality. She was Janna. One of the gypsies who cursed Angel, and the only person who could have prevented what had happened. Why hadn’t she? If Jenny had spoken up when they first met none of this would be happening. She’d still be alive teaching Willow computers and exchanging wry innuendo with Giles. Who would be in the library frowning at her every date with Angel.

“I want to blame you,” Buffy spoke to the soil. “I want it to be your fault. I want this whole thing to be on your head…but…I can’t,” She produced two roses, one red the other white. The latter was from her, which she placed down first. “I’m sorry for getting you killed,” A tear trickling down her cheek. “I’m sorry I couldn’t kill him when I had the chance,” She held back before lowering the red rose gently nearer the gravestone. “He’d want you to have this. He loved you, I know that now, and he’ll miss you,”

As she felt another tear trickle down she caught it quick and rose without hesitation, she half smirked at the grave before fully turning away from it. “I will find him for you,” She was referring to Giles. “I’ll promise you this,”

After being knocked unconscious Buffy had awakened in hospital to the kind faces of Willow, Xander, Cordelia and Oz. They hadn’t seen Giles, and didn’t know where he was. She knew he could be anywhere, even dead, but didn’t want to admit to herself how hopeless the search would be. Overcome with guilt she’d left the hospital to tour the locations where she thought he may be if he’d escaped and where he’d be if they still had him. She accomplished nothing but wearing herself out and causing her friends and family to worry more than they should. She couldn’t get them to understand how helpless she felt, how it was all her fault.

Even thinking about him was enough to sense his pain, it enhanced her own, and hardened her guilt.

Why hadn’t she killed Angel when she had the chance? A quick thrust of the stake, like so many times since and countless times before. That’s all it would have taken. It’s not as if that heart still held any of the love he’d given her, that had been flushed out with his soul on that disparing night. It’s just she couldn’t help think that deep down there was something, anything, that meant he still cared for her.

Even if it were just a skipped beat of affection, everyone needs that, right? Xander had Cordy, Willow had even got it together with Oz, a pair that was perfect if ever she saw one. Granted he was a werewolf, but hey, some guys were hairier. Sure there had been some false starts, like the preying mantis lady or Moloch or Impata. Even Giles had Jenny until…She broke off her thoughts, sensing the darkness closing in.

It’d be time for her to start work soon, it may not pay much, but at least she got to see the sights.The Graveyard, the mansion, the bronze, the graveyard. She’d toured these streets so much by night she had got used to each twist and turn and every crack on the pavement. She wondered if she would ever see them during the daylight, doubtful, when she wasn’t slaying vampires or stopping snake demons she was off preventing the next apocalypse. Occasionally the evil demons did fail to show, this was when she got to party – kick back with Willow and Xand and have a great time. God it had been months since their last night together now. The last time would’ve been, well, there were the nights at the bronze but they didn’t count, as partners were there. The last time she had personal time with her friends would’ve been that Indian flick on the TV. God! she wished for more. An odd day at the mall, a trip to the mutilplex for the latest Ben Affleck…even back to the fair! Sure the owners turned out to be demonically possessed leprechauns – but what fair doesn’t have it’s share of freaky attractions. Willow still slipped on the banana and pulled Xander into the mud with her creating a moment none of them would forget.

Buffy laughed out loud, cut off by a yell that faded into the dusk light. It was nothing, a dog, at most. She knew now she would never have the normal life she yearned for so much. She was the slayer, she would always have to be, that was why she was here. It didn’t stop her wishing though, hoping that with each week they would share a memorable exchange or a humorous incident. She’d have to arrange something after all this, if they weren’t busy with their respective partners, if they weren’t dead, just the three of them. Buffy didn’t mind Oz, even Cordy sometimes, it’s just on occasions she felt it best if partners were left at home. It made saving their lives easier if Angel or Dru attacked; even Spike if he ever got out of that damn chair!

Then something clicked.

Charles and Benny had returned to their brother after their little foray with the police the previous night. Both were buzzed, both were excited. Jonathan, the third triplet, approached. “Angelus loved his surprise,”

“Does he want the slayer?”

“He didn’t say,”

They exchanged looks, Charles speaking up. “Jonathan, you stay. We’ll go for her,”

“You sure he’d want this?” Jonathan said.

“Why wouldn’t he?”

“Any word?” Willow asked Buffy down the phone.

“None. He’s gone, vanished. I can’t even find out where they’ve shacked up,”

“The factory?”

“Gone. I tried all round there Will, not a snitch. I’ve been round town, everywhere; they’re not even up at that freaky mansion,”

“Too many windows. Vamps and daylight not going well and all,”

“Which means they’ve gone all moley on us.” Buffy sighed. She was worried for him. “Anything more on Spike?”

Willow turned round to the desk in the library, the phone gripped between her shoulder and chin. On the table lay several hundred opened books, in no order, with Xander and Cordy tossing more on every few minutes. “Let’s just say..”

“No jokes Will.”

“What? Not even in times of crisis…that’s like, like…our thing,”

“Just find something, anything about when Spike was transformed.”

“Sure…uh, Buffy.”

“Willow!”

“Can I ask why?”

“I’ve got a hunch…look, I gotta go make good with Mom, she’s got this whole thing about me and Miss

Calender…ring me when you find something,”

“Of course. You’ll be okay?”

“Only when Giles is back in his throne for the Tweed King of Sunnydale,”

“You said no funnies.”

“You think that was? Bye Will.”

She hung up, guilt stabbing her body a hundred times over. If she missed Xander and Willow so much, and they were willing to do whatever she wanted, why was she lying to them? She didn’t have anything with her mom, she hadn’t seen her all day, how could she. All she was doing now was trying to protect the gang as much as she could. She wasn’t gonna let Angel get to her like that again.

“This is ridiculous!” Xander tossed his hundred and eightieth book onto the table, causing a cascade that removed most of them to the floor.

“More room,” Willow thumped down another pile.

“May I ask if anyone has asked why we’re doing this?”

“Because Buffy wants us to?”

“So!”

“You usually jump at the chance to obey her wishes,” Cordelia commented from behind her book.

“I don’t jump, merely hop a little, but that’s not the point. What damage can Spike do anyway, he’s in a chair, legless, physically unable to cause harm. We should be concentrating on Angel, how to kill him.”

“Buffy must have a reason,” Willow said assuredly.

“Why? Have you asked her?”

“Yes!” Willow commanded rather full of energy, before backing down. “She…has a…hunch,”

“Yeah, well so do camels! And they’re telling me she’s got it wrong this time, they’re telling me that even after her ex killed Jenny, she’s still not willing to go after him,”

“She loves him Xander,”

“Willow. He murdered Jenny.”

“I know!” Xander backed down, loosing sight of Willow as she tossed a book through the air before leaving the room. It struck his chest, dropping into his hand.

“Something I said?” Xander said. Cordelia stood, slammed her book shut, and took the one in Xander’s hand.

“You know I haven’t washed my hair in two days…”

“Oh that’s great. We’re having a crisis here, and you’re thinking about you’ re hair.” He stormed out, leaving Cordelia standing alone; she hadn’t finished. He turned only once.

“As usual!”

Xander walked down the darkened corridors of the school, seeing Willow through the window of the computer room door. She looked sad, her hair hanging down round her head which rested on her fisted hands. He watched her wipe something from her eyes, before he heard her sniffling. He had known Willow all his life, one of his first memories was of her smiling down at him after he’d fallen off his skateboard when they were five. They’d gone through kindergarten and elementary together…always laughing and joking about how they wouldn’t survive the next step in the education process. That somehow the ground would just open up and swallow them mid-semester.

In all that time together he had seen her cry many times, and had never really known what to do.

Sure he had eventually gone over and tried to comfort her with some of his patented quips but they never worked unless she was happy when he was making them.

There was something different this time, something that was forcing him to go through the doors, in an attempt to make up for all the times he had just stood by. It wasn’t that though, seeing her sad, made him feel even sadder. Or something. He tapped on the door, shook his head when he realized there was no point to it, and entered.

Willow had heard his presence even before he’d knocked. She’d heard him anxiously thinking in the corridor, then nervously knocking on the door.

“Will?” He said, as comfortingly as was possible for Xander. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” She wiped away another tear. God! Why was she like this? It wasn’t as if she really knew the woman, not that well. It’s just Jenny had been teaching Willow for a couple months before the others got to know her – and at some point she’d just shone in Willow’s eyes. Instead of seeing a teacher, she saw an intelligent attractive woman who was fantastic with computers. Kinda something she’d always imagined herself wanting to be, she was okay with the fantastic and computers part, but the rest…”Fine,”…always seemed out of her grasp.

“I was only messing. Playing the fool Will. Kinda my act in all this,”

She took time to answer. “Then what am I?”

“You’re…Willow.”

“Go on,”

“You do the Willow stuff,”

He put his arm on her shoulder, rubbing it gently, trying to comfort her. He didn’t know why he had done this, or whether he was doing it right, he’d just seen it in movies and was hoping it’d work. Willow reacted to his touch a little too much, her flinch causing him to withdraw before she reacted against it.

Slowly she got up, and put her arms around him. In that brief moment where her face was in view, Xander saw more tears than he at first thought, prompting him to draw her into a closer – altogether warmer – embrace.

The feel of his arms around her grieving body shot all thoughts of Jenny from her mind. She wasn’t the hurt, pained Willow she had been moments before, this was Xander-loving Willow. The Willow she’d been five years ago when she would have given anything to feel this close to Xander. To feel that there was at least the possibility of something happening between them. They had hugged each other before, but they were the friendly ones, the ones that people exchange on a daily basis with nothing much within them. This was different, this was like how Oz held her, and what she ‘d dreamt of her whole pubescent life.

Xander was feeling something odd too, like, he was liking this way more than their usual friendly hugs. As if…’hey!’ He thought to himself. ‘This is your best friend!’ He opened his eyes, moving his hands a little. ‘This is Willow,’ Looking down her saw her rear was only a few centimetres from his hands. ‘This is Willow’

“Hey guys,”

Willow pulled away suddenly. A quick flick of her wrist knocked the last tear away, her smile leaving Xander with a ‘thank you’ look, her arm greeting the voice’s body round his waist. It was Oz, and she was smiling okay now, as per usual.

“So. You here for this fun-a-roony party too?” Xander suddenly burst out.

“We got the chips, we got the dips, we got the witch! So party on in!” He walked straight past them with a hand gesture, dance and grin only Xander could muster, leaving Willow and Oz a little bemused.

Xander danced into the hallway, halting all his goofy movement practically instantly. Fun-a-roony party!? We got the dips?! Xander smacked his head. Idiot!

Oz looked at Willow, who was clinging to him a little tighter than usual.

“You okay?”

“Yeah,” She nodded. “Course,”

“Well that’s disappointed me actually, I was kinda hoping you were upset,”

“You were?”

“I was kinda hoping I could kiss you better,”

“You were…well…now you put it that way…I am feeling kinda down,”

“You are?”

“Yes,”

Xander paced back into the library, grabbed the nearest book from the table and launched it across the room and then heard Cordelia spout something up from behind. Some witticism that usually amounted to him being scum to her goddess, he turned, his anger and frustration etched across his face. She stopped, staring into his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” She said, completely out of character, but she had to say it.

“You know something…!” He started, full of relish and ‘needing to say something’ verve. “…I…” He couldn’t get the thought of the smell of her red hair from his mind. “…I…” Nor the way her tears had moistened into his jumper. “…I…I am to.”

She opened her mouth to say something in reply, something she had tried to say once already. Xander touched her lips gently with his hand, “Let’s not spoil it shall we,” He took her hard, fast, and passionately. Venting the emotions that had been aroused upon Cordelia’s feelings.

They parted about two minutes after they heard Oz and Willow enter the library, moving across to the two chairs on the opposite side of the table.

“We’ve got work to do. For Buffy,” Willow said. “We may not know why, we may never know why, but if Buffy thinks it needs to be done. Then I say we do it.” No-one said anything, and Willow could tell they didn’t really know what to. She could see Cordelia’s lack of interest, and Oz’s full blown confidence in the situation; and in her. It was Xander she watched most though, seeing something gnawing away at him, at her. She met his eyes, and said quietly “I miss her.” That’s all she felt she could say.

Buffy’s fist smacked hard across Willie the Snitch’s face, blood spraying the top of the bar. “Where is he?!” She didn’t even give him time to answer before kneeing him in the chest, cracking him in the jaw, and slamming him to the floor. She pulled him up to yell the question through to him again though. He tried to stammer an answer this time, through the pain, but if truth be told, he didn’t know. This however was not what Buffy wanted to hear, so she hit him again, and left him to bleed alone.

Giles’ had passed out hours ago, Spike watching him dangle up there. In his fantasy he was drinking fresh blood from the librarian’s neck. Slowly, he began to rise, his feet kicking out and pushing himself into a physically strong standing position. He took a few paces left and right, trying to hold back his desire. All it would take would be one step, then a jump, and then…human blood. He couldn’t, even though no-one was around he couldn’t risk that sort of mobility. In fact…he paused, twitching his head as footsteps became prominent…time to resume the facade. He positioned himself back in his temporary prison – he needed it no more than he did Angel these days.

“RollerBoy! How’s the book keeper doing?”

“What do ya think? He’s hardly likely to be dancing the bloody samba, is he!”

“You two’d make a cute couple…cuter than the one he was in before.”

“Well as she’s in the ground. Which is where the Slayer would be if I were in control of this situation,”

“In time…”

“In time we’ll all be dead, and that bitch sharpening stakes whilst tap-dancing on our ashes,”

“You lack faith Spike,”

“And you lack intelligence! Buffy is a vulnerable bunny right now and all you do is smirk at her old man.

With the teacher dead and him gone she is weakened, if we strike now…”

“…we risk messing everything up! I know what I’m doing Spike!”

“Then kindly explain it to the rest of us! Cause I’m starting to think you ain’t got the balls to do her in!

I’m starting to think you’ve still got the whammy for her!” Angelus growled forward and hauled Spike from his chair, Spike quickly numbed his legs as Angel tossed him across the room. The temptation was so rife just to leap up and kick the crap into him now, but the time wasn’t upon him. He had to wait. Landing heavily upon the floor he growled in agony whilst rolling to a stop, his eyes focussing quickly back on Angel.

“Mention her again and I’ll rip out your heart! As I’ve said before this slayer is different than every other who has ever lived – we must first destroy her before killing her,”

“Before she kills us!”

“She ain’t got the balls,”

“No? Take a look at my old home! It wasn’t insured against rampaging insane librarians you know! Sooner or later she’s gonna get some balls”

“In time…”

“It’s always in time with you. Just kill the bitch!”

“Spike!” Angel growled. “In time I’ll destroy her. When the moment is right!”

“…and the killing her part?”

“Oh I have a few ideas…” Angel said with a fanged smile; unbeknownst to Spike that he had already,

days ago, set the ball rolling on this particular part of his plan. From within his jacket Angel pulled out Hethra’s statue, showing it off to Spike.

“Who’s that hottie?”

“Do you think we should put some of them back on the shelves?” Oz asked about the books which had now covered the floor, as well as every other flat surface in the room.

“We’ll take it into consideration. Considered. Nah.” Xander tossed another book to the floor and slumped into a chair. “I give up, this guy’s the Martin Blank of Sunnydale!”

Willow smirked as she clicked the mouse button.

“What?” Cordelia asked.

“Martin Blank…Grosse Pointe Blank! Vanished for years, came back to town with a purpose, left,”

“Only Spike hasn’t been here before…and he hasn’t left!”

“We can live in hope! Will?”

“Nice try Xander, but mark it up as failed – John Cusack’s far cuter than Spike” She noticed Oz beside her, unable to resist. “Not as cute as you though,” She’d always wanted to say that.

“Are you girls’ forgetting the PC environment in which we live? Spike may be an evil disfigured vampire…but that doesn’t mean he’s ugly…everyone’s worth their dues right. I mean look at Angel; hunk of smouldering testosterone; 240 year old psychopathic dead guy!”

“Oz;” Willow started. “Occasional, very hairy, vicious werewolf,”

“Xander;” Cordelia couldn’t resist. “…is, Xander,” She went back to her book. Xander shot a look of ‘who does she think she is’ to Willow, who smiled back in complete understanding. “Ooo!” Cordelia squealed suddenly.

“Not now Hun – best wait til the ‘moment’ before you slip into that act,”

She frowned down. “Which would be always with you involved!”

“Ouch.”

“But I said ‘Oooo’…as in I’ve-just-found-something-so-look-interested -while-we-cut-to-commercial,”

“Go on,” Xander prompted.

“It says here that ‘William the Bloody, earned his nick-name by torturing his victims with railroad spikes…'” Xander went straight back to his book whilst Willow looked back down to the computer screen. “What!”

“That’s what we do know about Spike,” Xander started. “We want stuff we do not know!”

“Is that what we’re doing!” She said with an air of sarcasm. “Well excuse me, but I didn’t choose this gig. I could be…”

“…washing your hair?”

Willow looked to Oz as Xander and Cordelia launched into one of their first-rate, A* class rows that would see no doubt end in a heavy kissing session. He took her hand and led her out of the library, seizing the moment to check something.

“You haven’t forgotten what happens tomorrow,” Oz asked as their hands intertwined.

“Last episode of Ally McBeal…it’s a bit of a shame. I liked it.” She said with a half smile, trying to hide her increasing pain. As if Jenny’s death wasn’t enough to deal with right now, she had the added pressure of spending three nights away from Oz due to his ‘bonus’ feature.

“No.” She finally admitted.

“Well that’s good.”

“It is?”

“Well no,”

“That’s good,”

In the couple of months that they’d been together their relationship had grown around Oz’s condition, but neither of them ever admitted as to how much this three day interlude affected them each month.

Granted Oz was usually in a growling rampant state, but Willow, sitting alone in her room on the ‘net missed him terribly. She worried about him to, what would happen if he got out of the cage and the bindings. What he would do to her? She’d often entertained the notion that even in his animal state Oz didn’t have it in his soul to hurt any part of her.

Then, just like Buffy, it clicked in her too. “Ooo! Oh. Oh boy.”

“Willow?”

She took his hand pulled him back to the library where Cordelia and Xander were in full lip lock.

“Oooo!” She said intentionally loudly, just to flare up Cordelia’s heckles.

“I know Buffy’s hunch…”

“Congratulations Will, you must introduce us sometime, meanwhile…” He motioned back to Cordelia’s lips.

“Spike has a soul. Or had a soul. Or maybe both,” This got their attention.

“Think about it guys. Why else would he care for Drusilla so much? Why else does he hate Angel so much?”

“Cause he’s a weird sicko-freak – and name me one guy who does like Angel. It’s just vamp stuff Will…he loves Drusilla, so what,”

“So…if vamps could love…if it is vamp stuff…why doesn’t Angel still love Buffy?”

Even Xander had to admit she had a point.

**

“It’s a statue…can’t wait to tell my friends…none of them have a statue this small,” Spike mocked.

The three of them had gathered round a circular table that stood near to the centre of the room, Dru unable to stand still as Angel’s fingers tickled her back and slipped round her waist. Spike had seen, but said nothing, knowing he was doing it on purpose to wind him up the wrong way.

“Spike, Dru…meet Hethra,”

“Goody, goody…” Dru hissed. “Another girl to play tea-parties with,”

“‘Fraid not Dru. I got something else planned for this pretty little thing! Hethra was the keeper of love before it was stolen and lost, or so she said. The story really goes that she locked it away, plunged the world into a living hell without passion – and ordained herself ruler over all. She ruled for eighty years before another figure, Cupid – or whatever he went by back then – broke into her temple and opened the box,”

“Which Cupid imprisoned her in, buried deep within the earth, hoping no-one would release her upon the world ever again,”

“Not quite Spike my boy! Hethra was one of the most viscous goddesses of her time, and the Gods knew this. They knew even in death she would never truly die. So they kept her alive, locked away in the very belly of all existence, where no mortal man or plucky demon would ever dare venture.”

Drusilla did nothing but giggle to herself, her neck arching with joy. “Oh Angel. You do know how to make a girl happy!”

“Hey, Dru. Let’s not forget old Big Blue!”

“But he’s all in pieces. This girl’s gonna take over the world,”

“If I had a drop of blood everytime a demon was supposedly gonna take over the world I would be swanning it up in me very own ocean by now pet.” He spoke louder to Angel. “What makes this gal any different,”

“It’s not the demon Spike – it’s the way you deal with them!”

“Okay. So how’d ya call her up?”

“I don’t…”He looked up to Giles. “And with this the Gods sealed her tomb with a force so powerful no demon could stand, and no angel would ever dare approach…never to be opened unless the key of equal heart and hatred found it in him to do so,”

“You’ll NEVER release Hethra!” Giles cried out from above.

“Don’t count on it Rupert…the Gods aren’t as smart as they think!”

“To release Hethra you need a one in a lifetime chance,”

“Yeah I do don’t I…or at least…I did,” He spun round to approach Giles, releasing the rope that held him and brought the middle aged man crashing to the floor before him. “I’ve done my home-work. If you were gonna tell me that the chances of me finding the ‘key’ mortal who would release her are one in a trillion…then I suggest you buy a lotto ticket Rupert…cause I’m looking at him!”

This knocked Giles for six. “What?”

“It’s you…Giles…the watcher. I’ve known from the very day I met you,”

“No.”

“‘Fraid so Rupe, pucker up and meet your girl, cause she’s on her way down, and she’ll only have you to thank!”

“I haven’t…I never…”

“KILLING Jenny gave me the opportunity to release the part of you that I knew would release her…the whole curse thing was a pleasant fringe benefit,”

“Curse?”

“Yeah. She was working on a curse to get rid of me, to make me that naive goody-goody you all liked so much,” Spike’s ears pricked up. “Your hatred and anger over her betrayal, and your trip of vengeance destroyed all love in you, however briefly, and that’s all the tomb needed. That one moment of despair…kinda ironic really…at least with my curse I got to fuck the slayer. What did you get?”

From far outside there was an almighty spike of lightning followed by a deafening roll of thunder.

Then from the bowls of space, the world began to shake.

The four guys in the library grabbed hold of shelves, desks and each other as the second earthquake in Sunnydale’s recent calender shook the room violently. Practically every book in the room, ended up on the floor, along with half the bookshelves, and a fair bit of masonry.

“I would find myself leaning toward this not being a good sign,” Oz said.

“Really?” Xander panicked back. “I’d find myself leaning toward AAARRRGGGHH!”

Buffy was just heading to the library when the earthquake hit, the shock of the event knocking her off balance and into the street. She quickly bolted up and sprinted toward the nearest doorway, town hall, holding on as Richter cranked the power right up. She watched in horror as masonry toppled from the building above, smashing cars and crashing into the road. Power lines toppled and sparks flew. She almost didn’t notice a streak of fire in the skies above, something normal people may mistake for a shooting star, but she shuddered different. Especially when it seemed to land on the other side of Sunnydale. “This is definitely not good!” She muttered, braving the deathly rain fall and sprinting out into the open toward the school.

The statue started to glow a brilliant red, it shimmered and sparkled, intensifying in colour before rising a few feet into the air to catch the ball of fire that shot through the ceiling above them and into it’s heart. Spike spun away as the fire trailed in over him, quick to turn back as the statue began to grow and mould into humanoid form.

“I feel all giddy!” Dru exclaimed, her entire body shaking with anticipation. “My mind is so tingly,”

It took only a few seconds, the burning flames flashing away with a singular white bolt of lightning that left all in the room dazed.

“Bit of an insult this object of focus,” The new figure said, the statue held firm in her hands. “The breasts are a tad on the small side…nice gesture mind, if a little un-enticing” She threw it to the floor, the rock smashing into several hundred pieces. “When will people realise that we do not want cosy romantic gifts…” She looked upon Drusilla with a knowing smile. “…girls want madness and blinding pain to make them feel wanted!”

“Should fit right in here then,” Spike said. “Welcome!” He turned toward Dru. “Better get the girl some clothes Dru, can’t have her destroying the world stark bloody naked, can we!”

“You’re more talkative than I expected,” Angel said, liking what he saw.

“I’m not like most apocalypses,” Hethra started. “I always finish what I promise,”

Giles sat on the cold floor, his arms heavy in chains, his eyes focused on the heap of human flesh who lay motionless across from him. How could he have been so blind? So stupid? He’d read the prophecies and myths surrounding Hethra so many time before, how could he not tell it was he who was the key. Why did he let himself get so caught up with Jenny, he should’ve known it would all end in chaos. Love always did, and would certainly do now. The legends surrounding Hethra’s methods were clear to him, and had been since he first read them. She drew the memories of love from a person’s mind leaving only hatred and darkness which, like a disease, swept across the corners of the Earth – and there was little anyone could do. It had taken several Gods the first time round! The figure across the room began to stir slowly, the groans and moans pulling Giles away from his thoughts, and to the face of this figure, which he recognised.

“Mr Giles?” Joyce exclaimed, buckling over as pain danced on her brain.

“Mrs Summers…I sense I should explain…matters,”

Hethra sat across the table from Angel, her blood red hair hanging long around her shoulders. It contrasted against the disparing black that ran through Dru’s dress. One that fit her body a little too tightly, but she figured it would do, having nothing against skin tight clothing herself.

“You can have anyone bar the Slayer,” Angelus informed her.

“You’re too generous!” She joked, knowing she could have anyone she cared to have, and there was not a damn thing he could do about it. “What’s there stopping me from taking her along with everyone else on this planet?”

“The fact I know how to imprison you again – and with the key dead, as I would see to, you’d be trapped forever.”

Hethra stirred in her chair, seeing the flash of truth across his face.

“Agreed. Can I ask why?”

“She’s mine!”

Spike circled the small alcove that he’d made his own moments after arrival in this place. It wasn’t that he feared Angel, hated and despised him maybe, it’s just that he knew Angel had it in him to pull of this apocalypse crap – and with Hethra, he just may.

“Spike?” Dru’s innocent voice sang through the cave’s walls. Within seconds Spike made a dash back for his chair, his feet propping up off the floor just as Dru glided in beneath the cloth door. “Spike my pet,”

“How are you Dru?”

“I’m all in a trance…we’re going to destroy the world,”

“I know,”

“Me and Angel, they’ll be nothing left but the tiny mice with their tiny feet and their…”

“Angel can’t be trusted,”

“Spike! How could you. Angel is our friend…he made you…”

“You made me Dru, not that nutcase,”

“He made me. He did.” She buckled over suddenly, her stomach doubled over in pain, a sought cry releasing through her lips.

“Dru?” Spike wheeled himself closer, pulling her head up onto his lap. “What do you see,”

“The girl…she…the curse…awwwww,”

“Dru? Dru!”

“Miss Edith once told me that when she gets older she is going to grow wings like a bird and fly away into the sky to get away from me. Miss Edith doesn’t like me. She thinks I’m cruel to her because I didn’t let her watch the daisies,”

Spike ran his hand through Dru’s thick black hair, knowing he wouldn’t get anything else from her tonight. Whatever she’d seen couldn’t have been much. The girl, the slayer? And the curse, Angel’s curse? What if she still had the cure the other one had been working on. If she did…he could get Dru back proper. Very cautiously he took his hands round his girl’s neck and lowered her to the floor, where she lay motionless. All he could hear as he rose back from his chair, searching his duster jacket, was her whimpering throngs of love; something about Angel. He wasn’t gonna hang around to find out what she meant, so with caution, he snuck away.

Xander released his hold on Cordelia and peered up from under the desk. Usually, outside of lethal-earthquake scenarios he probably would have relished squished between Cordy and Willow. At this moment of time however he was more worried with his life than how much of the girls’ bodies were pressed hard against his own. Something he really needed to prioratize for the future! With caution he ushered Cordy out into the open, he would have gone first, but he wouldn’t have been able to squeeze past her. Well, that’s what he would say if she were to bring it up – he somehow felt taking the opportunity to cop a hold of her ass was a lesser, more liable for overeaction, explanation.

“I think it’s over,”

He followed Cordy now, half tempted to try the same technique with Willow, but figured Oz may have something to say about that.

“Is everyone okay?” Willow asked, stretching out.

“A little cramp in the leg, but it feels kinda nice, so I’m okay” Oz replied.

“Well I’m glad one of us can make light of the situation – have you seen the dust on this dress. And the creases…ohmygod…”

“She’s fine,” Xander chipped in. “And as for me, one hundred per cent a-o-k!”

“Good,” Willow rolled her shoulder, a few books had rained down on top of her as she ducked under the desk, it had hurt and would bruise, but nothing major.

“So? Does one think apocalypse scenario, earth destroying demon, or the Stay-Puff Marshmallow man arriving to cook us all a late supper?”

“I’d be tempted to go with any or all of the above!” Willow shuddered. “But I’m hoping marshmallows,”

***

Buffy was at full pace after the earthquake had subsided, knowing she didn’t have to worry about falling masonry or flailing pylons she just legged it down the street toward the school – where she hoped the others were okay. Her senses were really telling her something was up, that something was gonna go down, soon!

WHAM!! A leg flew out of no-where, striking her hard in the face, and flipping her painfully into the road. If she’d twisted any further her neck would have snapped clean in half, but luckily it was only bruised. Her face however was a bloody mess, the cement acting like a cheese scraper on her feminine skin.

“Well would you look here Charles. Would you be the slayer by any chance?” WHACK! Ben’s hand shot down hard across her face as he scrambled onto her knees. The blow caused her to again fly to the left, further onto the road. Charles emerged from the bushes directly behind her, following up Ben’s punch with a vicious kick into the centre of her back as she landed. She screamed aloud, her cry piercing the night as she doubled over trying desperately to get to her feet. Ben met eyes with Charles.

“Stupid question, eh bro! We know you’re the slayer!” Buffy was too slow to avoid the next double attack; both brothers kicking out and catching her on opposite ends of her body. One to the head. The other to the legs. “I just never thought you’d look so much like your mom!”

“Mom?” Buffy coughed out some blood, spitting it onto the road. Charles rose his hand, signalling Ben to lay back. Slowly Buffy stood, regaining some strength whilst continually circling in a sort of hunched limp to keep an eye on both of them.

“Yes my dear.” Charles began. “We ran into her not long ago…or should that be the other way round.

She hit our dear brother Jonathan with her car, left him for dead and drove off into the night.”

“What?”

“Oh I called the police…should be making an arrest right about now!”

She knew her mom, she would never do anything like that. “You from Angel?” Charles glanced to Ben, both nodded as if it were the most stupid question ever. “We thought we’d do him a favour. Slide ourselves into his good books,”

“Then tell him I said hi…oh…you won’t be able to will you…cause you’ll be dead!” She whipped out a stake, launched it into the air, and her smug grin faded to grim as Charles snatched it from the air.

Given the moment Ben dove in, his fangs out, kicking Buffy with a roundhouse before landing. She spun back, square on both feet and lashed out with a succession of well placed kicks and punches that were nearly all blocked.

Charles stood back, watching the whole event. Observing his brother kick seven shades of shit into the much loathed slayer. She was responding well, even getting in some admirable blows that splattered Ben’s blood across the road to mix with her own.

Buffy cartwheeled across the road onto the bonnet of a car, ripping loose a branch of a Willow tree that stood there, it’s spring leaves blossoming. She used it as a quarterstaff, blocking several of Benny’s more viscous attacks before sneaking an opening and dealing him several blows to the body before cracking the stick up into his chin, flooring him for the first time. As she rose the weapon into the air in preparation for a staking, Charles attacked from behind.

The stick dropped heavily as she felt her spine close to buckling: if she weren’t the slayer it would have snapped on the first go, but then, he probably knew this. Before he got in a third attack she spun round onto her back, caught his leg in mid air and pushed him away. Charles was thrown into the air, landing with a growl onto his stomach. He pushed straight back up, slid his game-face on for the first time and ran forward. Buffy was quick to her feet, hopped into the air, and spun her right leg powerfully into the side of his head, the force sending him reeling across the road. Hearing sound from behind she landed, and with her left leg kicked out, missing Ben fractionally and giving him the opportunity to snatch at it. He smiled as she turned her head to watch him crack his arm forcefully down between her shin and ankle.

The sound of Buffy’s scream as the bone snapped must have been heard right round Sunnydale.

Ben grinned, his strength giving him the power to spin Buffy through the hair and straight into the side of a parked car; the force of which smashed the window and set the alarm bells ringing.

“You think we should just kill her?” Ben asked.

Charles approached. “Better not. We’ll take her to Angelus.”

“Can we take a sip then?”

His brother weighed up the options. “I don’t see why not,” He finally said. Buffy watched the two vampires approach, through the pain striking over her body and the tears that filled her eyes she tried valiantly to keep up the fight, but her smashed leg made it impossible to stand firm on both feet. She found herself weighted on her right, her left hand holding the car’s door, the broken glass cutting her skin. Ben came at her from the left, Charles the right. She did try hit out, but they were weak, useless against vampires this strong. In retaliation Charles lashed out with a blow that sent her spinning into Ben’s outstretched arms. Delicately he folded back her bloodied blonde hair, wiped clean a portion of her neck, and dug his fangs in deep.

She had always wondered what it would feel like, to be the food of a vampire. Somehow the imagery always made it look passionate, sexual. Her muffled screams, and the pain, were far from this. It was sharp when he pierced the skin, and unbearable as it sliced the flesh, then it went numb for a while – before the constant blunt ache rocked her body as blood was syphoned from her veins, into his mouth.

It was making her woozy…and she figured…this was it.

WHAM!

THUD!

A look of confusion.

Then an explosion of dust.

Ben ripped his fangs from Buffy’s neck, her legs giving way to land her in a crumpled heap beneath the car. Through the haze she could see someone of full strength attacking her Reaper. Someone who’s blows looked familiar; trained, precise, sadistic. It took a while, but soon Ben was pinned against the car’s bonnet; a thick piece of wood slamming through his heart. The dust explosion was sent raining down over Buffy, sticking to the warm blood that oozed from her neck and generally covering her bloody and wrecked body as if she were a centuries old antique in the corner of a long forgotten brick-a-brack stall.

“Thanks…” She started to get out, almost inaudible.

“No probs pet…” Spike’s face appeared suddenly before her; fully vamped up. “…can’t have those two claiming a Slayer’s life can we?” He raised his fist and gripped it tight round Buffy’s neck, hauling her up of the ground and against the car’s chassis. “They’d only be one behind me then, and we can’t have that!” He eyed up her neck. “It would ruin my slayer’s-slayer reputation!” He growled, really relishing this moment.

“Do it,” She mustered; out of options.

“What? Oh, that!” He ripped his jaws open, his fangs glistening, months since their last human feed. “I didn’t think I’d given you a choice.” It didn’t hurt as much this time, with the wound made, Spike’s fangs just slid into place.

She did try to let out one final scream, but she didn’t have the strength. Resigning all hope she relaxed her body, tried to forget the pain, and thought only of what she’d miss; her mom, her friends, her life.

Interlude

Spike’s eyes seemed to explode with erotic intensity as the first few millimetres of warm blood flowed down his throat. It had been an age since he’d tasted the fresh blood of the Slayer – and it felt good.

He had arrived in Sunnydale with a few very simple objectives, the one with the highest priority being the healing of his girl Drusilla. She’d been attacked by a mob in Prague thus he had brought her here to utilise the Hellmouth’s power whilst he obtained a form of cure. Course the discovery of the slayer had been no surprise, in fact he’d expected it, her death was on his agenda. His only concern however had not even been considered. The ‘good’ Angel had thrown him, they’d known each other – hunted as friends for decades – and he’d missed him when he vanished.

Spike tightened his grip on Buffy’s neck, speeding up the flow of blood and cradling her back in his arms for support as the life flowed from her.

The shock of Angel loosing his regained soul had hit him and Dru hard. One minute they had two mortal foes in town – the next it was three against one! The whole moment was monumental and catastrophic in one foul movement. Almost immediately Angel and Dru were becoming closer, their interplay and word exchanges were rife with innuendo and foreplay, and although he liked to think Dru wouldn’t betray him he knew things that swung to the contrary. The male involved was Angel, Dru’s sire, and object of adoration for years. Being a vampire Dru wasn’t prone to the normal weaknesses that were instilled as core emotions in human beings. She didn’t know of true love; and she didn’t give a fig about leaving him for Angel. However much he tricked himself into not believing it, something either was or would happen between the two of them if things went unchecked. The thought of Angel’s hands on any part of her body was enough to make his blood boil!

Suddenly he whipped his neck back, the fangs lacerating the surface of Buffy’s skin as he pulled away. Her blood dripped steadily from the wound, flowing into her already stained clothing and beginning to dry into the material. Wiping the drips that had crept down his chin he licked his fingers before loosening his grip and letting her drop to the floor. “Bitch!” He said. “You had to fall for his puppy dog ways didn’t you! If you’d killed him when you first got to town everything would be easier on all of us right now!” He bit deep into his wrist. “Especially you!” Slowly he knelt down. His left hand slid beneath her neck, pulling her head comfortably from the road. He draped his right hand in closer, his blood mixing with her own as it streamed from his wound.

This fresh blood on her face didn’t make any difference, her flesh was red anyway. What would make the difference however was the hot thick liquid that seeped in through the corners of her mouth and welled up at the back of her jaw. Spike twisted her head back, waited a few seconds for the blood to matriculate down her throat, then lowered her back to the cement.

He stood slowly, slipped off his game face, and turned to exit. Stepping over the ashes that remained of Charles he heard one final splutter of breath exude from Buffy, then nothing. He paused, sliding his hand into the pocket of his leather jacket. Pulling out a cigarette he shot it into his mouth and lit the end. With a long drag he inhaled the nicotine, allowing it to flow around his substitute respiratory passages before exhaling in a long puff that dissipated into the night’s sky. He spun on his feet and walked faster from the scene.

“And…Buffy, makes three.”

Part II: Rest-bites

Willow sat alone and afraid in her bedroom. The events of the last few days had all become a blur, christened with the disappearance of her only true girl-friend. All she could remember from the previous nights’ vigil was that it had amounted to a blur of nothing. She must have collapsed. All she could clearly remember after the earthquake was Oz’s lips brushing against her own before he left to leave her to dream.

What had manifested in her sub-conscious was everything she held dear.

Flashes of days spent withXander when they were kids through her times with her mother and father. Buffy hadn’t figured until far longer into her life, and by a long way produced the most memories. Maybe it was because it was fresh in her conscious, but the happiness she was forced to relive had seemed to all occur in the last year of her life. Before Buffy had arrived she was the loner girl who hung with Xander and Jessie. Jessie? She must have smiled in her sleep when he showed his face between the three of them. After Buffy had taken her under her wing and chirped ‘seize the day’ she had felt her burden lighten. Sure enough it had been weighed down days later with the realisation that they lived in a town where vampires were as common as cracks in the pavement, but the onslaught of demons and ghouls only heightened the barrage of wit and humour that they zapped between each other. During the Master’s second attempt at opening the Hellmouth she had been forced to mature. The sight of the massacre in a room she knew bolted her mind into the realisation death can, and maybe, imminent for all. The summer and times that followed had shone bright, Buffy hadn’t been around, but that had meant time with Xander.

He didn’t have Cordy then, and the kiss they had nearly shared was more prominently remembered then anything up to that point. The smell of his body close, the brush of flesh, the taste of everything that may have been. Everything since became a growing and maturing mix of Buffy’s cheerful optimism, Xander’s banal quips and Oz. Oz her boyfriend. Her boyfriend.

Her mind had been blank when she screamed herself awake; the flashes of her changing thoughts only coming through tears after. Of the fanged Angel attacking her from behind, of Ethan Rayne and Eyghon, of experiencing the trauma of murder. Of Xander and Cordelia. As soon as she had run these through her head then she needed someone to be with her. She couldn’t cope spending the day without company, to have all those minutes to wile away with worry over Buffy and the constant reminders of Jenny that sat in a heap by her computer. All her files, discs and notes. She was supposed to be taking over the class, on a temporary basis, but now she didn’t know. If she couldn’t bare looking at them without breaking down. How could she possibility step into Jenny’s position?

She heard a tap at the door, her legs spinning into action and dashing across, flicking over the latch and pulling it open. “Buffy!?” Oz stood there, smiling his calm, gorgeous grin. Her face lit up and she threw herself toward him, releasing all the emotions she had thought were already out of her system that morning. The renewed tears and sobs flowed out of her body and into Oz’ s shirt. He took it without word; moving her over to the bed, sitting, and drawing her close til she was feeling okay.

Buffy stood in a void of perfect whiteness that was fast becoming not. It was changing and altering rapidly before her eyes. She couldn’t speak, she couldn’t make a sound. Though there was sound; deafening screams and nightmarish cries all around. The whiteness began to bleed a bright lucid red, at first the odd trickle seeped through tiny cracks in the vacuum that she was within, then faster more thickening torrents. It flowed toward and around her, engulfing her.

She coughed and spluttered for air as it enveloped her within it’s sticky wetness, drawing her down.

Flashes of her past shot through her mind, glimpses of the future, everything. For a brief second, surrounded by this blood, in this void, she was as close to perfection as her mind was ever likely to be.

She knew everything that had happened and for what reason, and she could foretell all that was to occur, and for every reason. Was this death?

She blinked awake, coughing, than spluttering, then whincing in agony. Her wounds and scratches all patched up, her hair and skin washed. The sheets she lay on clean and soft. She half expected Angel to come waltzing in through the door, smiling his smile, saying everything would be fine. That was then.

Something felt different now. She was hungry, hungry for what? Usually at this time of day her mom had made her a bowel of nutty loops that she passed on before school. Fresh orange juice and milk were also a regular addition at this time. But she wasn’t yearning for that? What the hell was it? She reached across to her bedside table and groped for the necklace that she always removed before bed, be it at home or away. She was definitely away, but a habit was a habit! It wasn’t there, and she flopped back down onto the duvet in confusion. “That was either a really rough night at the Bronze – or that was a really rough night at the Bronze!” The thought crossed her mind that this was a guys house, a guys bed. She had slept with him, made love to him, maybe. Maybe Oz. Or Xander. Or…in a flash she remembered what she had a taste for, she could smell it wafting in from the kitchen and she was up off the bed in a flash.

A glass of red wine sat on the table, alone bar a note. She approached it and pulled the note into her hands. The hand writing was wild; scrawny and practically illegible. “Thought you might be hungry after such an eventful evening! You were great!” She had slept with someone. Christ. “PS turn around! You may like what you see.” She was reluctant to, half expecting a guy to come pouncing out in some erotic costume or naked or with a knife. She could deal with a knife! She dropped the note, her eyes focussing on the mirror and what they were looking at. She screamed.

She saw nothing; no reflection.

Her hand grasped for the table as she reeled in shock, it knocked the cup, and instead of spilling like wine it oozed like blood. Fresh, tasty blood. A sensation inside her snatched out to stop it all from escaping, the drops on her fingers being forced down her throat with a relishing whine of excitement. It tasted…good! She threw the glass in anger across the kitchen, watching it smash against the fridge door. She screamed.

“I’m sorry,” Willow said as she finally allowed herself to move from Oz’s grasp. “I’m just a little worried right now,”

“You needn’t apologise Wil,”

“I feel I should,”

Her phone rang, cutting their speech with it’s shrill ring. Xander. He wanted to know if she was okay, he’d got home after spending the rest of the night searching town. Nothing. All he wanted to do now was crash out, try and forget about it for a few hours, and get some rest. He was just worried about her feint last night. She was glad he cared, especially when it was the only reason he phoned, but she tried not to show it. She couldn’t: she had Oz across the room. Saying their goodbyes she hung up, and watched the stack of paperwork on the desk. Maybe it would take her mind off stuff after all. Oz saw what she was thinking and said she should get on with it. He would do a tour of Sunnydale in his van, see if he found any sign of them, then come back. At first Willow was a little unsure, what if something happened to him, what if she couldn’t cope being on her own again. Before she said anything to him he had her round the waist, kissing her. It was day, no vamps. And she could take care of herself! She pushed him away, pulling him back briefly for a final peck on the lips.

She couldn’t wipe the thought of his grin from her mind as she pulled her chair closer to the desk.

The first disc slotted into the drive and she waited for it to boot up. The program that appeared shocked her a little, there shouldn’t be anyone in the class who could make that sort of obvious mistake with their databases. Who was it? Keeley. She’d have to have a word with her!

Spike had crept back into their temporary lair, and his chair, in the early hours of the morning. He had wiped his chin clean before returning and was hopeful no blood had become stained there. Not having a reflection there was no way for him to check! He turned the chair toward the exit of his cave and wheeled himself out to search for Dru; he needed her, the blood had strengthed him even more.

“Where’s the hottie?” He said aloud, both Angel and Dru spinning in surprise.

“Spike, where’ve you been?”

“Sleeping pet – a vamps gotta sleep!” He slid his hand round her waist and beneath the waistband, tickling her skin. She growled a smile as he tightened his grip and pulled her into his lap, bending her onto her back and going in for a kiss.

Angel watched, indifferent to Spike’s actions. He knew he was winding him up with his continual innuendo, that was the only reason he did it. If it didn’t get a reaction, what would be the point! It wasn’t that he didn’t want Dru, far from it, but he’d had her long before Spike got there and that was comfort enough for him. ‘Cause she’d never get it better.

Spike pulled away, teasing Dru with a scratch of his fangs against her neck. She purred a laugh before straightening. He felt like her old Spike, her strengthened Spike, and she liked it! “We looked high, we searched the stars. We couldn’t find you,” “He was off for his MOT my love, not having the kind of fun we were,” “Of course.” Spike said back. “What was it? Backgammon, chess…hide and seek?”

“Bit of all three!” He snarled.

“I see…and your pet of the hour, she join in?”

“Hardly my boy, she had prior engagements to attend to. End of the world and all,” “Ah yes. Slipped my mind.”

“Master?” A trembling Jonathan stood at the doorway to the main vamps concourse.

“A guy could get used to that,” Angel asided to Spike and Dru, before turning to affront the newcomer.

“It’s my brothers master,”

“What about ‘em, went out to play without you,” “They…they went for the…slayer,” Angel growled, bolted across the room and slammed Jonathan against the rocky wall. “Say again,” “Touchy,” Spike joked to Dru. She only grinned in pleasure at Angelus’ actions.

“They went for the slayer,”

“That’s what I thought you said,” He snapped the vamps neck and tossed him across the room to be impaled on a jutting chunk of oak.

“Very touchy,”

“You can join them then!” Angel snapped at the dust remains that showered down onto the floor.

“You think she killed ‘em,”

“If she didn’t I will…I ain’t finished with her enough for her to be public game!”

“As you’ve said mate…however…you’ve never actually said when that’s gonna be!”

“A death here, a murder there. The usual. Do you know what happens tomorrow night?”

“The moon eats too much and becomes bloated like a fish after eating the other fishes food,”

“Thanks Dru…”

“The full moon, I ain’t lost my mind,”

“Well tonight is the night before it,”

“So?”

“So…” He paused, raised his neck and arched his head into the baying call of a wolf.

Buffy felt a power gripping and squeezing her mind. A darkness. An unrelenting throbbing darkness that was clamping itself tighter and tighter to her mind. She was screaming and kicking and crying out as it just got tighter and tighter. Is this what it was like? To have a demon enter you? She had thought it would be simple, not so much painless, just simple. As if an entity just slipped through your skin and went “Ta-da! You’re no longer who you were – you are me – HAHAHA!” She screamed again, ripping her grip from her head and lunging out the nearest object. The table. She crushed it with her weight, grabbing at half of the top and slinging it across the room to dent the wall. “Please go…” She begged, dropping to her knees as it became almost unbearable. “Please.” Is this why she could remember so much, feel so much? Tears fell from her eyes.

“Angel…help…me…ARRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHH”

Giles had shifted himself to sit beside Joyce. Angel had kept his hands and ankles chained, and his wounds untended, but his feet could still do some pushing. “Vampires?” Joyce seemed, as expected for a woman who’d just learned they sat on the mouth to Hell and her daughter killed demons for a living, a little shocked. It wasn’t that she was disbelieving what Giles had told her, more that she didn’t want to believe it so didn’t allow herself to. “The slayer?”

“Hmmm, it’s really quite an honour. She is one in a generation Mrs Summers,” “I’ll bet she is…did you hurt your head?”

“I’m afraid not,” Though he’d expected this reaction, he didn’t quite have the tolerance to listen to it, the end of the world as they knew it weighing heavily on his mind. “I’m quite serious. She’s thwarted many evils and stopped numerous apocalypses, you should be proud. She’s quite a girl,” “I see. No, I don’t see. She’s a slayer. You’re a watcher, you watch her?”

“I train her for the battles she must face,”

“That’s what I’m not liking, battles. She has a history of fighting Mr Giles, violence, arson. I try to forget it and not bring it up – but I’ve often thought she’s a little unhinged. It sounds off coming from me, but maybe I should think about getting her some help,” Giles couldn’t believe his ears. “Do you think it might help?”

“No, Mrs Summers…I do not! You daughter is one of the finest girls I have ever had the fortune to meet. She may lack in some departments, but what she does she…she more than makes up for. It can’t be easy for her juggling two lives, she’s hated keeping it a secret from you. She wanted to tell you herself after Angel…”

“Angel her boyfriend,”

“…yes…but I think ex is the way she would put it.” “He was stalking her, she said he was getting violent,” “That’s putting it mildly. He is a vampire, was good, isn’t now after they…well something…they…did erased his soul and he became evil…again.” He gulped back, looking away. “He killed Jenny to get at her, and myself, and will continue to torment her.” He shook his ankles violently, crashing the chains against the rock. “I didn’t know this would happen!” He cursed out suddenly.

Willow’s face was a little excited as she skimmed the various lesson plans Jenny had made for the upcoming weeks, there was of course the revisionary lessons prior to their finals but up til then…they would be fun! She made a few notes and dropped the planner into her bag, ready for her return to school. Most of the stuff she had was stuff from other pupils, a few discs with spells saved and the odd cutting from a magazine about witchcraft and such. This had interested her a little, sensing some of the mystery that she thought had attracted Jenny to pursue the craft. She pulled up another disc from the pile, a yellow one, and slotted it into the drive. She was expecting more school-work, so was excited when the filename flashed up ‘restspl_prog.exe’, which she double clicked to load up. The squeal she unleased as she saw what flashed up was only out volumed by her gasp of surprise.

This was what Angel felt like? It must be. There’s no question. Buffy sat whimpering in the corner of the darkened room. The pain had gone, eased, yet she felt no different. Was she supposed to? She didn’t know. Did she care? She was BUFFY SUMMERS she kept telling herself though pitied sobs as memories raced and faded. Buffy Summers of LA, later Sunnydale. The Slayer. The chosen one. Friend of Willow. Xander. She had a mom, a dad. People she loved. She also loved blood, thick warm fresh blood. Blood taken from the neck of a nubile young man, a hunk, strong muscles. Maybe Xander. She snapped away. NO! If she was feeling like this then all the time she and Angel had spent together he was thinking the same. Of her blood. Of her neck.

Why was she like this? She screamed. She was a vampire; fearing the sun, it hurt her, wanting blood, crucifixes. Yet she loved. She adored. She felt pity, remorse, everything. She wanted to see Willow, tell her everything was gonna be okay. She wanted to hug her mom and exchange verbose comments with Giles. Giles? What would he say? Would he be sorry? Would he hate her? And Xander – he hated the vamp Angel – what of her?

In a rage of anger she tore herself out of the corner with a desire for destruction. To relieve this anger and hatred she was feeling. She would start with the room; the furniture, everything.

She had to.

Oz sat watching the entrance way of the graveyard. He’d driven past it several times, but knew if there was to be any sign of her inside, this was where he would have to be. He stopped the cassette and pushed the door open, not bothering to lock it. Why should he? Who would nick such a hideous vehicle?

He walked assuredly through the rows of headstones, reading each name with silent respect as they flicked through his line of vision. His hands slapped rhythms on his legs as he walked, peering past each tree and crypt. He did call out her name a few times, but heard nothing, not a sound. Other people may have fond it creepy, but not him. He found it tranquil and rather peaceful.

A pair of eyes observed him from within a deep crypt. They didn’t venture further, the sun-light too much for them to bare, but it was clear they were waiting for him to come closer.

Willow stared at the screen, Xander over her shoulder.

“This is it?”

“A computer program?” He wasn’t clear.

“The curse…the one to get Angel’s soul back,”

“Really? Wow. Got a hammer?.”

“Xander!”

“What? You haven’t thought the same thing! He killed Jenny, what more is there.”

“Buffy loves him,”

“Buffy did love him. The “good” Angel, the one that played dead even when he wasn’t told, not the unmuted super-freak that stalks her every living minute!”

“Maybe,”

“Then destroy it,”

“No,”

“You want him back?”

“Sort of…no…”

“Then why keep it?”

“Cause…well because!” She ejected the disc and slotted it into her pocket with a playful grin. “Okay so Angel’s a bit mean right now, but, this is important, and should be kept in the…”

“Slayer Chronicles, that fab-licsious set of volumes,” His thoughts drifted.

“With the engravings of past Slayers, yes,” And she knew to where.

“Miss African Plains, 1817” Xander fantasised.

Willow grinned, recalling the image of the Slayer wearing next to nothing in the blazing heat. “Why was a Slayer based in the African plains?”

“Vampires take vacations Wil, heart of safari country you should know that.”

“Lions and tigers and…even more lions,”

“Oh my!”

He lunged for her pocket, his body twisting round hers as she quickly spun to avoid it. She slipped from her chair and landed on her side, laughing. He was still on top of her, his hand groping for her pocket yet she continued to push away. They were both laughing now, then he was tickling her, then she was flat on her back and he was sitting on her legs. One of his hands slid toward the pocket whilst the other went under her jumper to immobilise her further. She fought the disc bound hand but found herself laughing too much to do much good. Then things went into a blur. His hand brushed her right breast and everything stopped, his brown eyes full of glinting excitement were staring down into hers and contact was made. His hand went unmoved as he seemed to hang in mid-thought.

At first sceptical Willow thought it was a game, a way of obtaining control of the disc she wanted to keep so badly. The touch had been accidental, she knew that. It had just un-nerved her, and thrilled her, which is why she didn’t comment in the typical feminist way girls were met to yell. They hung like this for a brief few seconds, time freezing as their hearts pounded, their thoughts racing. The breast hand stayed where it was, his other moving up the floor in support.

Then, with force, with want, with complete uncontrollable passion. He kissed her.

Within seconds of stepping near the crypt a body had rushed Oz. Taking him by surprise from behind he was unable to fight back and found himself thrown to the damp floor. “Nice architecture,” He had got out before being struck across the face into partial unconsciousness. He could still see it as the figure dragged him through a secret passageway at the base of the crypt and into the murky depths of the city’s sewer system.

“Do you have this in a size eight,” “We sure do little lady,” “Well get it!” Cordelia snapped, the kind hearted assistant loosing a little of it and moving away. “No, don’t bother. That colour would not match any of my shoes.” He stopped, returning a few paces. “No, get it. I saw the perfect heels over at La Rouges,” He went again, vanishing completely into the storeroom near the back. One employee had commented her again and he just glared back. He always got lumbered with Miss Cordelia Chase! When he re-emerged with the dress she had gone.

Her heels clicked along the granite walking area between shops, her mind firmly on shopping as a diversion for what was happening in her personal life. Something other normal friends would never learn about. Cordelia stopped, an un-nerving sense of someone following her flushing her mind. When he turned she saw no-one of interest; a gang of lads watching her, a couple window shopping, a gorgeous red head walking past, and a business man with a case. She was reminded of the bug-man, but this was – sort of – happy thoughts, the guy having brought her and Xander together. She spun, took a step, and stopped abruptly. “Hey!” The gorgeous red head stood before her, staring into her mind.

“I’ve missed you dear,” There was absolutely no passion in her voice, and Cordelia with her weighed down hands was too slow to stop the lady from putting her hands round her neck in a cuddle.

“Have we met!? I don’t think so!”

“Oh how could you forget?” The lady pulled down, resting her hands at the base of Cordy’s neck. Her fingers circling a spot on the nape and her thumbs burrowing down the front of her neck, to where it merged with her upper torso.

“Well since we haven’t met!”

“Oh we have!” The lady said with malice, the fingers and thumbs she had positioned pushed down with force and Cordelia felt a jolt surge her body. It was enough to make her drop her bags, the expensive contents spilling onto the floor. “I am Hethra,”

Memories of her life flashed through her mind. Of her mom and dad, of growing up, of her witty exchanges and popular sayings. Images of her and Xander together, favourite shops, money surged her mind. They burned as she remembered them, and she wanted the pain gone fast. She tried to scream but couldn’t. They were good memories, loving visions of times past and hopes future. God they hurt! Then they were gone, and her mind was briefly a blank void. Then what remained expanded; everything she had stored of hate and anger. All her memories of pain and jealously. Torment.

Despisment. She blacked out for a second, caught in Hethra’s arms.

“You remember me dear,” Hethra cooed.

“Yes,” Cordy’s voice was almost robotic. “You are my mistress,” Hethra smiled, allowing the teenager before her to stand fuller. “You are Hethra,” “Do you understand?”

“Yes,” Her mind ached as the couple walked past, offering to help her with her stuff.

She stared them off. “I understand mistress,”

Oz found himself being sat at the head of a great table, a figure he had seen sitting at the far end.

“Angel, right?” He was more alert now, the effects of the henchman’s fist had faded.

“Nice to meet you again,” He glanced round the rest of the table; the dark haired Dru, the bleach-blonde Spike. “We haven’t met have we? I’m Oz,”

“Spike,” He motioned toward Dru. “Drusilla…pleasure’s all ours,” “That’s cool hair man,” “Cheers,” Spike turned to Angel who watched the boy’s actions with interest. “What’s this mate? If I wanted to play cosy with cream scones I would have hauled in the Englishman, at least he could have made a lovely cuppa.”

Oz nodded. “You should listen to him, my tea is pretty awful, and my coffee. Come to think of it, best keep me away from the kitchen altogether,”

“Miss Edith doesn’t like coffee, it makes her mind go all naughty and she can’t sit still like the other dolls so I have to punish her.”

“Try giving her some decaffeinated, should help. Same taste just without the kick,” Oz advised.

Dru smiled, purring toward Angel. “He’s perfect dear,” “And he’s not even started yet,” Angel said in reply.

‘What was that?’ His hand finally moved and pushed him back up. Willow lay there, and he let down his hand, which she took to pull herself up. He steadied her round the waist and they stood together.

Alarmed. Confused. Anxious. Nervous. Both stuttered something in speech, both backing down, then talking together again. There was a rather high pitched giggle shared before Willow fumbled in her pocket and handed the disc across. He refused it, and without question she hurriedly put it back on the desk and fumbled to sit down: her legs shaking and about to give way. “Wil…” Xander started, watching her only in his head. His eye sight had remained fixed on where she stood. Recalling the kiss and the way she tasted, how good it had felt with their bodies together.

“Don’t,” She said.

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t say your sorry…that it just happened…that you didn’t mean it,”

“I wasn’t going to,”

“Good,”

He nodded, pacing across the room to perch against the window, staring out. She turned her head to watch him from behind, an expression of delighted bewilderment on her face.

He opened his lips to talk.

“I wasn’t going to apologise…but it did just happen…yet, boy did I mean it Wil!” She didn’t answer, allowing him a moment to turn and wait, watching her eyebrows furrow. “I think I…”

“God please don’t say it,” She said under her breath. It was her mind talking, begging him not to say the words she had wanted to hear since she was a little girl. He came over and sat beside her, their eyes drifting away from each other.

“I love you Willow,”

“You said it,” She said quietly, Xander hardly able to hear. “Don’t tell me you don’t feel anything for me Wil, I know you do. I know you wanted that just as much as I did. We’ve been friends since we were kids. We’ve grown up together. We know each other better than anyone, even ourselves. You must feel something.” “Xander…I?” She hesitated. “I love Oz,” Did she really say that!? He stuttered back what he was going to say. “Man!” This pulled Willow from her lapsed state. “You were right about the disc. We should keep it. May come in handy if we meet a bunch of midgets with a passion for diverse frisbee!” He laughed. “Want a drink? I think I saw some coke in your fridge.” He got up and left the room quickly. “I’ll get us some chips as well, your mom’s always got some lurking somewhere. We can get to work on stuff then…you know, formulate a plan, research the old Spike man.

Do the Giles stuff!” His voice faded to a distant hum as he nattered on to himself far from Willow’s ears.

Cordelia had left Hethra now and followed the female of the couple into the ladies room. She had cropped blonde hair, a chirpy face and a figure she would have been envious for if she didn’t look like she did. Cordelia had overheard her name as Phoenix, and used it as she saw her walk past the mirror behind her. Phoenix paused and turned her body slightly toward Cordelia. “Yes?” She said. “I don’t know…” Cordelia pounced before the girl had time to finish, her hands cracking round her neck and applying fierce pressure to the nape and front of the neck. The last thing Phoenix remembered before blacking out and collapsing into Cordy’s arms was the way she felt after Cruze – her fiancé – made love to her. When she reawakened her mind was dark, bloody and full of hatred.

Both girls smiled at each other before exiting and going their individual ways.

Willow watched Xander from her position in the hallway as he poured out two mugs of coke and searched for the chips he hoped were somewhere. He was crashing the cupboards and thumping the stuff down with such force Willow was shuddering each time. “They’re in the cupboard by the back door,” She said softly. He looked up, surprised. “Okay, we’re on now!” He danced across, pulled the door open and tossed her a bag. She caught it neatly and played with it in her hands, his eyes never coming near her own.

“Xander?”

“Willow?” He mocked back.

“Don’t joke…god…” She chucked the bag of chips onto the kitchen sideboard and hopped up onto it, her legs dangling. She watched him hesitate with the crisps before leaving them and twisting to lean against the fridge opposite. “Should we talk about it?” She asked uneasily. “What?”

“What we just did,”

“It was a kiss Wil, that’s all,”

“That’s…all?”

“Yes,”

“Okay,” She hopped back down, grabbed the bag of chips again and moved off out the kitchen. That had hurt so much! “Fine. Let’s figure out what we’re doing then, with the curse, and Buffy…” She was cut off as he snatched her arm, twisted her and shot his lips again to hers. She pulled back this time, angrily striking him across the face. In a flash she realised what she’d done, she’d hit him, Xander.

Hard. He stared back.

“Willow? I…”

“GET OUT XANDER!” She found herself yelling. It was as if her regular self was hovering above the scene, watching, and a whole new Willow was acting it out. Under the established rules her body would be quaking in his grip right now, shivering and wanting at the feel of his arms and the buzz of his lips against hers. He said nothing as he left.

Xander fell against the wall of the exterior of her house, angrily cursing himself before running off across the street with angry haste.

“Giles,” Jenny said.

“Jenny,” Giles said.

“You look like you’ve got something to say,” Jenny said.

“Hmmh? Well.” Giles said.

“Mexican,” Jenny said.

He awoke with a start, the smell of her perfume gone. The sense of her flesh close vanished. He was sweating, shivering with cold, his face tearful. “No!” He screamed out, crashing the chains heavy against the rock floor. “Never!” He smashed them down again, the sound echoing through the halls, waking Joyce. On the third strike he stopped, breathing deep, the sound of Jenny’s voice playing softly in his mind. “I didn’t mean for this,” He sighed.

“Giles?” Joyce asked.

“Once upon a time I would never have been able to summon her…to release her…I read the books and…and I never thought of this. How could I have been so blind!” “Mr Giles?”

“I am the watcher, the one person in all of the world to train the girl chosen to protect it. There’s only one soul strong enough to be able to protect such a legacy as Hethra. The Judge was nothing, a mere henchman of this woman who was able to hold onto her power after it was taken from everyone else,” “I’m sorry about…Buffy said. You two were close?”

“Yes…it should never have happened,”

“We can’t pick who we love,”

“No…we can’t,” He sighed, raising his eyes. “Hairclip…”

Xander had run for miles, then walked them all back. He had cursed and yelled at himself for what he did, anguishing over his feelings and wrestling with his hormones. Kissing Willow seemed like the most perfect thing in the world, yet he had Cordy, she had Oz. They would be betraying them both if they were to pursue it, but he didn’t care – this was what Willow had always wanted, so why had she kicked him out? He had returned home to find his mom crashed out with a liquor bottle. He hadn’t even bothered to pick it up like usual; going straight upstairs he kicked open and slammed shut his bedroom door. His speakers had whammed into action and the music of his heartache pumped through them.

He’d thrown himself onto the bed, felt a note piercing his back, and pulled it out. Reading it he had leapt pretty much into action.

Willow had spent the rest of the evening alone, watching repeats of Scooby-Doo, Captain Caveman and Mighty Mouse on the Cartoon Network. The chips she’d scoffed down were enough to pile on the pounds, but she was never bothered about that. She was more bothered about Xander…and Oz who had never showed back up. When she got a note through her letterbox she had read it, grabbed a jacket and left. Walking through the streets she knew so well was freaking her tonight, the odd crying scream followed by a constant deathly silence chilled her. Something was most definitely up.

Buffy sat hunched in the middle of the room, destruction and debris littered around. In her fit she had attacked herself, found her wallet, the picture. The one of the three of them; the one with Xander squished in between her and Willow with a goofy expression, the one with her laughing, with Willow kooched up to them with her patented shy smile.

Her fingers ripped the paper, shredding the memories into snowflakes as she tossed them over her head to float down into the fragments. In a flash she ripped herself from the floor and sent her hand slamming hard into the reflectionless mirror, the glass smashing out across the floor. It was the only item left. Bar one. She knew what she had to do. She knew from the very minute she had recalled Willow’s laugh whilst she was licking up the last drops of spilt blood what she had to do.

She hated vampires and their kind…her kind…even more now than ever. She bent down and gripped one of the larger fragment of the mirror. It’s pointed end cutting into her palm. In a faked heartbeat she slashed it up toward her chest, piercing the skin and drawing blood fast. It oozed from the wound, her heart, slid down her front and to the floor. She felt pain, horrible gasping pain…but nothing more.

No death. She slung the fragment of mirror smashing to the floor and seeked out something better, something wooden. A chair caught her eye, the leg snapped off and held tight.

From somewhere outside a sound caught her ears, a howling. “Oz?” She moved to the door, as she went to open it she discovered it was locked, easily overcome with a quick tug that splintered the wood.

Sliding the stake into her pants she moved hesitantly into the hallway and down the stairs.

Angel stood above the town, watching the streets and listening to the cries with intense pleasure. He knew Hethra could do it. “How many have you taken?” “Seven thousand and climbing,” She said, joining him.

“You always sound so serious, lighten up, you’re watching Armageddon!”

“I’ve already seen one,”

“Well you know what they say…”

“That I do?”

Angel slid on his fangs, grinning them back at her. “Then watch something new!” A howl pitched up into the clear sky, baying at the full moon that hung over their heads. “I like that kid so much!”

In the school library Willow sat reading a book, nothing in particular, just one she had grabbed to console herself with whilst she waited for Xander. She thought she owed it to their friendship to hear what he had to say. The words written soothed her mind, the syllables bouncing off the page of ancient text with well written ease. She heard the door swing back, her eyes gliding up to a rough looking Xander. He clutched a note, and then she frowned. “Why do you have a note?”

“You wanted to meet me,” He held it up. “You wrote it here Wil,” “No,” She glanced at what she was using as a bookmark. “You wrote…” Their minds melded. “Oh,” Xander spoke for the two of them. “Us two sophisticated lovable fools fell for the old trick note scam. How could-we-be-so foolish Willow?” “How indeed!” Spike said, appearing from behind the stacks. “Looky Wil, we got ourselves company,” He moved closer to her, fearing the worst. What else was he to expect from a vamp who had tried to kill them several times before. “I ain’t here to fight,” He dug his hand into his pocket. “I came to give you this,” He skipped down the stairwell, Willow noting the lack of chair but not wanting to ask, and followed his hand as it placed something onto the table. A box: Willow leaned forward, flipping over the lid. She let out a cry as she saw what it was, and buried her head into Xander’s stomach. He recognised it too, Buffy’s crucifix pendant. Caked in blood. “I found it near the ‘yard…she didn’t stand a chance…a whole gang of ‘em attacked. She asked me to give this to you, to tell you something,” “Why you?”

“I was the only one there to fight ‘em off. I may not like the chick but I kinda wanted to kill her myself…jealously is a bugger of an emotion…I came right here…” “What did…she,” Willow sniffed.

“She told me to tell you she wants Angel back. She wants you to restore the guys’ soul,” “She wouldn’t…”

“She would ginger, I was there,” He looked to Xander. “It was her last wish mate…don’t ya think you should honour it!?”

Xander stared at the necklace. Then he looked to Spike, making a snap decision based only on his deep-seeded love for Buffy. “We got the curse…I can get…” He looked to Willow who was eyeing him.

“…I can get Amy, she should be able to work it,” He unwrapped his hands from Willow and touched the necklace into her palm. Something wasn’t clicking in her mind, yet the mere thought of Buffy being dead had been enough to trigger more tears. “I’ll…” He motioned to the door.

“I’ll keep an eye on the chick, swear it…” Spike said with a serious grin. Willow nodded, causing Xander to turn on his heels and run from the room. He called out he wouldn’t be long, though Willow sensed Spike wouldn’t try anything. He wouldn’t have gone to all the business of faking paralysis, sending notes, buying an exact same copy of Buf…notes. She twirled on her rear and out of the chair, taking a few paces away. She dropped the necklace to the floor and watched him look at her with confusion. “Why the notes?” She asked, Spike just looked confused.

“I ain’t a musician pet – just look like one!”

“You said you came straight here,”

Xander was just about to exit the school when Cordy approached from no-where, her frown enough for him to realise he wasn’t in her best books. “Cordy!” He panted. “Just the girl I needed to see. I need your car,” She said nothing, slinking forward and throwing herself upon him. He was taken by surprise, he wasn’t in the mood, but her grip was too tight. It burned.

“The notes…” She snatched the paper from her book. “You didn’t write the notes? Who wrote the notes?”

Spike took it from her. “Willow. We need to talk. Meet me in the library, at eight. Please come. Xander.

Yeah – and I bet his said something along the lines of ‘you’re a gullible wanker if you believe this’!” He screwed it up and dropped it to the floor. “Come on!” “Where?” Willow was a little nervous. Maybe this was a trap after all, maybe he was going to take her to the broom closet and snap her neck. “We?”

“See that,” He kicked at the note. “Could be the last thing you read,” “I read the book after,” She half smiled.

“Look…Dru wrote that…Angel must have? Bugger!” He grabbed Willow by the arm and forced her to run toward the door.

They smashed open, three vamps bolting in and forcing the pair to freeze in their tracks. Dru waltzed in from behind, her face turning sour as she saw her mate standing beside her goal. Spike. Standing.

Walking. “Somebody’s been naughty,” She purred. “Drusilla, luv,” He searched his mind for a droll comeback. “Look…a miracle,” It fell flat. “Does Angel know you’re here?”

“The bad girl’s got the curse.” She turned her eyes toward Willow who felt a tingle in her pupils, her mind drawing away from the situation into a trance. Spike pulled her loose, sliding her behind him. “If Angel knew,” Dru scolded.

“Get ready to run,” Spike whispered to Willow.

“Uh-uh,” She nodded. She slid her hand back onto the table, curling the necklace into her palm and holding it close to her side.

“Dru pet, why did Angel send you?”

“We came for the curse that will make him what he does not want,” She drew her head back. “We didn’t expect such behaviour Spike. We thought you were our friend.” She seemed ready to cry, but didn’t, she wasn’t able to. Instead she whipped her fingers forward signalling the attack.

Spike pushed Willow away, ordering her to go, as two of the three vamps leapt at him from both sides. He took one of them down with a swift roundhouse, knocking him across the room to be impaled on a smashed star banister. He ducked as the second came in, striking his upper torso and following with a kick. The third vamp noticed Willow hesitating, darting forward with hands outstretched. She screamed, attracting Spike’s attention causing him to be struck hard by the second vamp. Willow reacted fast, for her, and whipped the crucifix from her pocket into the air. She clutched it fast, willing and creating a barrier of force between her and the vamp. In the second she got as pain shot through him she grabbed one of Buffy’s stakes from the box in Giles’ cupboard and, still holding the crucifix, crept forward to dust him. It worked, and she coughed as his remains filtered up her nose.

“Here!” She called, rolling the stake across to Spike who was overpowered on the floor.

“Cheers,” He snatched it, lunged it, and brushed the dust away. “Get outta here!”

From the door there was an almighty crash, all three occupants of the room spinning in surprise as a hulking figure of hair and drool slid to a halt admist shards of glass and wood. He growled in greeting.

Spike jumped to his feet and cursed in anger. “Not now…” Willow watched in horror, she had seen it before…”Oz,” Only Dru was left hopping and grinning in pleasure. “Angel named him Toto…said it would be a tearful reunion,” She screamed and lunged forward for Spike, no longer able to control her anger toward him. Her nails caught him across the face, blood splashing out. He grabbed her wrists and twirled her through the air until she crashed into a bookcase, breaking free.

Giles tossed the metal chains to the floor, rubbing his wrists that were skin-bare and bloody. Gripping the hair-pin he used it on those at his feet, kicking free and scrabbling over to Joyce. Within minutes she was free and he was helping her up, kicking down the door. It smashed against the stone wall of the cavern outside, and they were running down the hallway. “What is this place?” Giles muttered. As he said it two vamps growled round the corner, fangs bared. Joyce screamed in shock, and Giles pushed her behind him.

Willow was stuttering in mid movement, her mind telling her to get the hell out, her feet telling her not to move. However much she had hoped Oz wouldn’t hurt her in this state, she had never wanted to put it to the test. “Oz…it’s me…Willow…you know…” She had hoped he would hear, to understand, and allow her words to fight off his animal craving instincts. It lashed out with it’s clawed hand, striking her across her shoulders and chest and forcing her into the wall with a scream of agony. She dropped to the floor, drowsily spinning herself back to look up at the slobbering jaws

of her boyfriend. “Oz,” The werewolf roared in agony, arching his back into the air and sending tingles of fright down Willow’s back. She could just make out a flash of metal, an axe. It struck Oz again near his stomach, flooring him in a pool of blood. Xander stood there clutching an axe, it’s head dripping red. “Willow,” He said, unmoved.

“Don’t make me do this pet!” Spike said, hitting Dru with a combination of three punches and two kicks. “You know I love you!” She retaliated with her own clawed swipes, her power and agility equally a match to Spike. Her strength was back, and if Spike wasn’t in mortal danger because of it, he would be thrilled by it. They continued to fight, oblivious to the scene building up across the room between Willow, Xander and the werewolf.

All Willow thought when she first saw Xander standing there was that he’d hit Oz, with an axe. Oz was on the floor bleeding, dying, because of Xander. Her friend dropped the axe and slid up to the floor beside her, touching her leg. “Willow,” He looked pained; full of anger, or agony. Willow didn’t like it, something was wrong.

Spike caught Dru a neat upper-punch and flinched his head to check on Wil as his girl fell backwards.

He saw Xander, sensing Hethra’s disease within him. “Bloody Angel and his two bit whore..!” He was caught off guard and Dru’s kick sent him spinning though the air, landing roughly on the stone floor. he groaned, Dru leaping down on top of him. “Oh poor baby,” She stroked his head, it was bleeding.

“You have been a bad…bad boy!” She scratched her nails from ear to neck, Spike grimacing as it stung and blood rushed to the surface of his skin.

Xander’s grin was almost maniacal. Willow, seeing the glint in his eye, tried to scramble away but he was too fast. His hand gripped tight round her neck, dragging her with gasping breaths up the wall, her legs flailing as she struggled to break free.

“Xander?” She pleaded. Begging him for air. “I love you,” It sounded so false.

“Exactly,” He said in monotone.

His grip tightened.

Interlude

Fish.

Willow did not know why, how or for what unearthly reason she thought it, but the vision of a fish floundering on a river’s bank was all that flooded her mind.

“Xander!” She coughed. Her eyes flaking out of vision, his grip tightening.

Oz – dead? Buffy – dead? Xander – trout.

Trout!

That’s what the fish was, a trout.

With all her strength she lashed out her leg and connected hard, with a surprising gush of contentment, with Xander’s manly bits. He tried to scream, a long and silent outake of air as his strength crumbled and his hands removed themselves quickly from Willow’s neck to grab at the flooding agony. He dropped to his knees. Then to his side. Trying to cry.

Willow gathered up her breath, snatched the axe from the floor and swung back to Xander. She rose the object and looked down at her writhing best friend…her Xander. “I’m sorry,” She whispered. With force she drove the axe down, connecting the wooden handle hard against his skull. He fell motionless, his hands dropping to his side. She heard a scream from across the room, and whipped round to see Dru launching Spike across the room toward her. The blonde haired vampire sailed through the air with an increasingly loud shout, slamming hard into Willow causing the axe to fall and both bodies to slam against and through the library door.

Willow rose up dazed, their bodies entangled in a more than lewd position. Spike rose, holding his aching head and slid his eyes across to stare at the young girl. Her hand just happened to be resting on his thigh. “Not now pet, don’t wanna make the missus even angrier!”

She whipped it away, embarrassed.

Giles grabbed a torch quickly from the wall and flung the fiery end fast toward the nearest vamp – who exploded into flame. He grabbed Joyce’s hand and pulled her down the corridor, trying to escape the other creature of the night. Too late. He felt the demon land on his back, it’s fingers tearing through his shirt and deep into his back. He screamed in agony, flinging his body toward the wall and hearing the vamp’s bones crunch against the rock. Somehow he managed to feel his arms up round the vampires upper body and perform a throw that Buffy would be proud of – the demon landing onto the floor in front of him. He needed a stake! Too late – the demon flipped up onto his feet and kicked out, catching the librarian against the chest.

“Mr Giles!” Joyce screamed. The vampire growled toward her; fire burning in his eyes.

Spike rose heroically to his feet, brushing down his duster jacket, before lending his arm down and hauling Willow up. She looked at him with curious eyes, half smiling. “What?” He sneered. She said nothing – only screamed as the library doors flung open and Dru appeared, her face dripping blood, standing heavy on her left leg. The material of her dress was torn from shoulder to stomach, only a thin veil of black material covering her chest. Spike grinned. “Looking good pet!” He lashed out, connecting his fist with her jaw and forcing them both back into the library.

The doors swung closed, Willow darting across to the window to see Dru kicking Spike around a bit. She couldn’t help but wonder whether this wasn’t a daily ritual for them – considering the enjoyment they were both getting and all!

She jumped back in surprise as a sudden loud crash emanated from somewhere above them all, the skylight in the library crashing down in a hail of glass. A body dropped amidst the fragments, landing solidly on two feet and spinning round to drop kick Dru. Willow gazed through the glass that was steaming up with each breath; the figure had blonde hair, good looks, “Buffy!” She whispered. Her hand pushed against the door handle and swung it open. She said the name again, louder.

Her friend called back in warning, as Dru hurtled through the air on top of her and the two females slid back into the hall entangled. Willow huffed her head from their entangled bodies. “Now this is getting ridiculous!” “Could not have said it better myself dear” Dru grinned, grabbing her hand around Wil’s neck and pulling her up as she rose majestically and marched back into the library – Willow gagging for air and kicking her feet for the ground.

The vampire lunged for the mother of the one girl he feared the most, his hands lashing around Joyce’s upper body and throwing her round to the floor. Giles suddenly appeared behind him, grabbing his neck, twisting him round and ripping off a good right hook. The vampire tripped as he veered back, slamming against the wall. Giles skidded down as the vampire floundered on his feet, scooping up the burnt out torch and whacking it hard against the wall, splintering the end into a point. He danced forward and drove the pointed end deep into the rising vampires heart. Momentarily he was caught on the body before it exploded to dust and he was sent crashing to the rock floor. It was only a matter of seconds before he rolled over, groaned and slowly rose to his feet ensuring the stake was gripped firm. He leant against the wall as Joyce wandered over in a daze. “She makes it look so easy!” He huffed.

Buffy spun on her feet, tossing her blonde hair away from her human face. She watched as Dru sauntered over with Willow in hand. Spike walked nonchalantly up beside her.

“You should have stayed in doors,”

“And let you have all the fun! Let her go Dru!”

“I think I’ll keep her,” The female vamp grinned. “She’s so tiny…and fragile…like Miss Edith. I think I’ll enjoy playing with this one more.

She makes noise,”

‘Would it work twice?’ Willow was thinking. ‘Nah, that would be stupid…oh just try it you little idiot!’ She kicked out her leg, contacting with Dru’s nether region and giving her leverage enough to drop to the floor and scramble out the way. Buffy threw herself forward into Dru and Spike looked on, as the two women in his life went into a crazed one on one. Willow pulled herself to two feet and watched as Buffy kicked Dru heavily in the stomach, the vampire doubled over and Buffy grabbed her neck, hauling her forward and bringing her knee to crack heavily against the jaw. As she fell she drew a stake from her pants and whipped it into the air.

Spike’s hand suddenly grabbed her wrist hard, levering the stake to drop to the floor as he back-kicked his boot heavy against Dru’s face – unconscious. He pushed Buffy away and stood his ground as the blonde teenager swung back to her feet, keeping position. “She dies!”

“She lives!”

“Hey – who makes the decisions around here? She dies, nothing else to it.” “With your boyfriend a salivating loony who’s called upon a cute looking demon to eradicate this earth I think I have the say in this.” “Yeah, like I haven’t already taken that into account!” She bent down and grabbed the stake.

“Fair ‘nuff. What about your watcher? Oh, and your mom also, they make a cute couple.”

Buffy suddenly dashed forward and grabbed Spike. “What about them?”

“He has them!”

Buffy stared deep into Spike’s knowing eyes, he seemed exceedingly casual.

“What’s the deal?” She said.

“You curse Angel, give him his soul back, then I get Dru,”

“No can do…no curse.” Spike gestured toward Willow, who nodded as Buffy rolled her head round. “Fine. What do you do to me, that you haven’t already?”

“I help you get your parents back,” He said drolly. There was a sudden commotion from somewhere outside the school, all three heads turning to the smashed skylight above: Angel and his guys. Spike smiled. “Something tells me you ain’t ready to see him yet! Do we have a deal?” Buffy lunged forward and pulled Spike close, rage burning deep inside her.

“You take me to them, we rescue them, then I kill you!” She turned her head.

“Willow, where’s the curse?”

“My house,”

She started to push Spike toward the back of the library, the vampire squirming loose and grinning down at the Slayer, whose eyes kept flinching nervously back to Willow, whose eyes kept flinching back to the fallen Oz and Xander. The two girl’s crossed sight. “We can’t leave him,” Willow started. “He doesn’t mean it,”

“Go with Spike,” Buffy ordered. “I’ll follow,”

“Come now pet, we can start where we left off,” His arm wrapped around the red heads shoulders, only for her to push him away, she turned to watch Buffy hesitating on the library floor, staring at the blood that was still oozing slowly from Oz’s wound before wandering toward the back of the stacks. Spike paused and turned his head, smiling. Buffy looked up and caught his look; two vamps sharing a moment. He knew she wanted it. Quickly Buffy grabbed a syringe filled with some of Gile’s knockout concoction and she drove it deep into Oz’s leg.

The noise from Angel and his vamps suddenly echoed into the building, pulling Buffy and her face back to normal. She heaved Oz’s weighty werewolf body onto her shoulders and started moving quickly toward Spike and Willow who were leaving the building. She slipped round the stacks out of sight just as Angel and his long black jacket burst into the library. He signalled for his vamps to follow through the stacks.

“Dru!” He said in surprise, the female vampire rolling over with a groan.

“What you doing out?”

“I came for the bad girl,”

“Buffy?”

“I came to get you a present…a surprise for…”

“No times for games Dru, tell it…”

“The curse for your goody-goody soul, they don’t like you like this,” “So she’s got the curse…clever girl!”

“Spike!” She said suddenly.

“What about him,”

“He…he was here…my love…he went with them…”

Angel started to laugh, helping Dru up and copping a quick feel as he did.

She didn’t mind. “Well thing’s have gotten interesting!”

“Yes they have!” A voice said from across the room. Angel growled his head round to see Xander rising, nursing his head. The bad-vamp rushed forward, Dru clawing him back. Xander grinned. Angel guessed exactly what Dru was about to stay. Hethra.

“Then I guess you got an opening!” Xander said. “I have only three requests then I’m all yours!”

“And they would be?” Angelus growled.

“Well firstly – no biting, gotta hate the biting! Two, I assume Spike’s role completely…” He rolled his eyes and smiled at Dru. Both vampires rolled their eyes to each other.

“And three?”

“Willow. She’s mine.”

Angel weighed things up, granted this wasn’t part of his plan, but he didn’t object to improvising. Not at all. “I can offer two of those,” “Excellent, who do we kill first?” He started rubbing his hands together.

“Oh, one of them wasthe second, right?”

Part III: Ecstasy…?

Eastern Europe, 170 years ago.

Spike lurched up from the nubile young body of his latest kill, the girl’ s blood flowing down his jaw and dripping onto her naked body. He hauled her up and threw her into the bushes, wiping his mouth free and licking the excess from his fingers.

He’d only been a vamp a couple of decades, but the lifestyle was something that he’d taken too pretty damn quickly. A couple of shags here, a few broken necks there, always someone tasty and fresh. Then of course he had Dru to go home to, not that they had a steady place they could call home. They just roamed and fucked and ate. It was there thing.

His feet were quick through the loose soil that made up the under surface of the forest in which he roamed tonight, the shadows from the trees dancing in the moonlight.

“William,” A voice whispered.

He froze.

“William the Bloody,”

“What of it?” He said. Half laughing his hearing off, there was no-one here, let alone someone who knew who he was.

“Thought it was you,”

A figure suddenly lurched from the nearest tree, catching him unaware with a sudden kick to the end. As he spun to the dirt, his head flipped round, catching sight of a young girl dancing through the air. Another foot suddenly kicked across his face and then the figure landed, her breasts heaving as she did. Even in the dead of night, whilst being attacked by an unknown force, he knew what needed to be looked at out of priority. Her next punch was blocked, and he pushed her back to the floor. She kicked back up though, fast, and drove forward with ease. He tried to defend and attack, but he found it difficult, she moved too fast, too knowing to be a mere human. “Who are you?” He whipped out.

Someone else joined the fracas, a sudden whirr and she was floored, being kicked, punched. Spike spun in the darkness, seeing a large black shadow rising as the sounds of someone running off tripped his senses.

“Who are you?” He shouted out again.

“My name is Pendran,” It was an old voice, speaking in the local tongue, which Spike knew a little of. “Please, come with,”

Giles and Joyce darted through the winding caverns that made up whatever hideaway Angel had fashioned for himself. Truth be told, Giles had no idea where they were, and had only one objective – to get Joyce out. He had to.

The two of them suddenly burst from the thin winding tunnel into a large room, etched with rock and dripping water somewhere. A table sat roughly in the centre, a couple of off caves in the walls around. Some shrouded with a haul of cloth, others left bare. At one end of the cavern was a chair, a dilapidated crucifix above it, cracked in two.

Giles’ eyes scanned the off shoots, looking for…something. His arm rose, pointing deftly at one exit: piping. A sewer. Joyce couldn’t argue, and the two of them set across the room as fast as their quickly tiring legs could take them. Giles began to slow as a laugh trickled into a room, one he recognised. He froze, holding Joyce back as Angelus appeared out of the hole he was aiming for. The vamp hopped down the slope of rock and stopped a few paces before him. They shared eyes, Giles wanting to rip the smile from his face.

“Get out of…” His voice trailed off as more figures appeared slowly from the hole: a few stooges, the sauntering figure of Hethra, Drusilla…Xander. “…my way,” Angel caught his eyes, flicking his head back to Xander who started to follow down before turning back to Giles.

“The two of you have met I take it,”

“No,” Giles muttered. “Not you,”

“Yep indeedy book boy!” Xander said dryly, sliding in beside Angelus and nodding to check first. Angel smiled, directing him on, before sliding into a chair a few paces away. Xander suddenly lashed out, hitting Giles in the chest before following up with three vicious punches to the face.

“Where did you think you were going Rupert!” Angel said. “I told you to stay put!”

Xander lashed out with his foot, kicking Giles to his knees and glaring toward Joyce. “You’re next!”

His hands flew down around Giles neck – who screamed out as a burning pain erupted.

Buffy dropped Oz, darting over and hauling a vampire off into the middle of the road, Spike following through with a roundhouse before pushing him back toward Buffy where he was impaled on a stick she snapped from a tree. She whipped the wood out and stuck it into her pants, snapping off two more and chucking them across to Spike and Willow; just in case. “Heads up,” She called out, Spike ducking as another vamp threw himself toward. He caught the creature in mid-air, redirecting him into the floor where he followed up with four punches. Gripping the vamps shirt he pulled him up into the stake. Buffy knelt down and hauled Oz back onto her shoulders, Willow had gone on ahead, and a quick signal to Spike denoted him to follow as soon as possible. She darted down the road and up Willow’s drive to where she stood at her bedroom doorway, Buffy placed Oz to the floor so that Willow could drag him into her room. Buffy whipped her head up, turning to watch Spike taking out the remaining two vamps with accomplished ease at the end of the road.

Willow watched Buffy in her doorway, something looked different. “If he wasn’t your mortal enemy the two of you would make a great team,” She said, joining her and watching for a few seconds as Spike dashed down the road. “Can you trust him?”

“I have no choice,” Buffy said, staying put on Willow’s doorstep, half-watching Spike.

Willow watched her, a smile trickling over her face. “You are welcome to come in you know,” She smiled sarcastically.

“I know,” She waited, watching Spike take out the last vamp before she stepped through. She was about to say something when Willow turned with an evil smirk.

“Shall I make him stay out in the cold!”

“Best not provoke him Wil,”

“I know,” She caught Buffy’s look “What?”

“Nothing…nothing,”

“Sure? ‘Cause, well, Spike did say you were dead and – well – here you are!”

“He said I was dead?”

“Hmmm,”

“He gave me this to prove it,” She rummaged in her pocket, pulling free the bloody pendant. “You should have it back,” She stepped forward, offering the necklace.

“Willow…no…”

Willow backed off as Buffy took a pace back, her friend’s head spinning suddenly away. “Buffy? What is it?” She pressed forward.

As Buffy turned to face her, to look into the eyes of the girl she cared for most in the world, she could see the horror building from within. She wanted to cry as Willow’s face screwed up in fear and terror, tears rolling from her eyes. Buffy wanted to hug her but her friend was stepping away. “Willow…I…”

Spike coughed purposely loudly at the door.

“You told her then,”

Tears in both their eyes.

Eastern Europe, 170 years ago.

A fire raged in the centre of a circular cavern, the flames licking life into the shadows that waltzed off of Spike’s face as he stared through the heat to see Pendran across from him. He was old, very old, obvious from the heavy lines and scarring that plastered his vampire features. His hands were clasped round a clay cup filled with liquid: a wine of some sort. He lugged it back, never taking his eyes off the vamp, and gasped. Not bad!

“So, Mr Pendran,”

“Just Pendran please,”

“Very well, Pendran. You seem to know who I am, why don’t you start telling me who you are – else I’ll have to kill you,”

The elderly vampire just stared through the flames, sipping at the liquid. Spike wanted to dive forward and kill him, this was all bollox to him, but there was something. He watched Pendran rise slowly, and walk across the room to a shelf. The vampire picked something up and then returned to where he had sat, resuming his position. He tossed the small object through the flames, Spike’s reactions snatching it from the air. It was a stake.

“Go ahead,” Pendran said solemnly.

Spike continued to watch him, toying with the stake, before slowly placing it to the floor beside him.

“Who was she?” He said crisply.

“Her name is Rachel. She is the Slayer,”

Spike eyes widened. “The ‘who’?”

Xander felt nothing but pain lurching through his hands, and by the look on Giles face he too was feeling some semblance of discomfort. Xander rolled his head. “Would someone mind filling me in on why Cordelia is able to do the zapping thing – but I ain’t!”

“He’s the key, the key cannot be taken,” Hethra said.

Xander cracked his knee against Gile’s head. “Fair enough,” He spun round toward Joyce. “We’ll try door number two!” As Xander stepped forward Giles grabbed his ankles and pulled the boy to the rock floor. Xander kicked free. Angel laughed.

“I’ll get you out of this Xander,” He whispered. It was Xander’s turn to laugh. He kicked loose the old man’s grip and pushed himself to his feet, turning once again to Joyce – who was too shocked through fear and confusion to put up much of a fight. She jerked as Xander, the friend of her daughter, the vampire slayer, grabbed her neck and applied pressure. She screamed as a burning pain shot down her spine and engulfed her mind. She screamed as she felt her soul being crushed.

Giles’ head rolled to stare at the rock floor as he heard Joyce’s screams die away and replaced with the chuckling laugh of Alexander Lavelle Harris.

“Do you understand?” Hethra said aloud.

“Yes Mistress,” Joyce said in a monotone.

“Then go forth,”

Giles could do nothing as Joyce began marching past him, up the slope and out of view. He felt Xander’s eyes burning through him, and Angel. He was laughing.

“What with the old man?”

“Take him back to the cell, keep him locked up,” Angelus rolled his eyes to Hethra. “Just in case,” Hethra grinned.

“You still doubt me…”

“Yes I do,” Angel snapped back. “Xander?”

“Sure thing boss,” He said in a droll gangster accent, hauling Giles up. “Dru, we still have the little matter of a curse. Do you want to do it, or would you rather me?”

“Why Angel…need you ask!” She turned, vanishing from the cavern.

“Gotta love that girl!” He shrieked out, sliding his eyes from Hethra. The demon watched the vampire sit a few metres below her, his body shuddering from a chuckling laugh. She shook her head. “What about the Slayer?”

“You worry too much,”

“She should be eliminated,”

“I have her Watcher.” Hethra turned, and quietly left.

Willow sat against her bed, her feet pawing at Were-Oz’s furry body, the hair a little coarse though soft and warm. She didn’t mind. Too much was happening too fast; the potential end of the world as they knew it, Buffy. Xander. Could she tell her now? Should she?

Buffy sat across from her, against the wall, her face in vampire mode as she watched her friend’s socked foot stroke the bloodied hair of the creature. She watched her friend’s head as it tilted on it’s side, her hair falling away from the smooth skin of her neck, the odd freckle the only impediment. “Oh, tha – that’s okay. You don’t have to come back,” She closed her eyes, a flare of red burning in her mind. Oozing. Throbbing. When they were opened she was human again.

“A-hem!” Spike coughed from the doorway. “Is someone gonna let me in or not, I’m freezing my ass off out here,”

“Come in,” Willow said softly. “Join the party.”

“Willow,” Buffy said softly.

“Was it you?” Willow asked Spike.

Buffy rose her eyes to the vampire as he closed the door slowly. “It was Spike.”

“Why?” The red head whispered.

“That’s a good question,” Buffy followed on.

“We’ve got more important things to sort out ladies, lest I not remind you,” “Answer us Spike,” Spike rolled his head, flopping onto the bed. “Girls…always with the chat…I had to, okay, you were too badly injured, only the healing powers of the undead would have been able to save you. Changing you was the only way.”

“Why not leave her to die?” Willow said.

Buffy’s eyes traced across the room. It had sounded cold. “He needs me,” The Slayer answered. “He needs me to help get his girlfriend back. To help him get rid of Angel. That not right?”

“And the world pet, let’s not forget that little threat,”. Willow reached out her hand and touched Oz before looking to Buffy. “Why haven’t you killed me?”

“Wil…” She said it sympathetically, hurt that someone who was so close to her could even think such a thing. Then, “…hey…that’s an exceedingly good point.” She turned to Spike. “Why haven’t I tried to kill her?”

Eastern Europe, 170 Years Ago.

Spike had, throughout the course of Pendran’s tale, circled the interior of the cave eleven times. For the first time he was being taught about their race, their people. They weren’t just demons sent around to kill and have fun. They were here to reclaim what was once taken from them: the world. He listened of the legend of the Slayer, the one girl chosen to protect their evil. ‘One’ girl – he had laughed at that. All over the world there were hundreds of vampires, how much could one girl do?! “Why do you tell me all this?” He had asked at the end of Pendran’s story. “To keep you on your guard, the Slayer could appear at any time, just like tonight, and if you are not careful then she will best you, just like tonight.”

“So – apart from me being deader than I am already, which I’ll grant you is a bit of a bummer – what difference does that make,” “Your female companion?”

“Drusilla,”

“Lovely chick, great ass, what about her?”

“You love her,”

“Well I like to screw her, if that’s what you mean,”

“No, it is not,”

As soon as the four words were said Spike’s mind was plunged to memory, back to the day their paths had crossed, back in London. He had seen her across the way, had watched her slink through the night, her curving body lovingly walking the moonlit streets. He remembered how his heart had skipped a beat when his eyes first glanced at her face and couldn’t look away. How her eyes had bored deep into his soul, how he had tripped over a rock and landed on his ass. He ‘had’ loved her in that moment.

Xander re-entered the chamber where Angelus sat, his face staring toward the shrouded figure. “Where’d everyone go?”

“Outside, into the mayhem. I’d go there myself if it weren’t for the Slayer.”

“Do you want me to play dog?”

Angel smirked. “No. Let her come. She’ll come.”

“What do we do until then? If you don’t mind me asking,”

Angel didn’t reply, he surveyed the room quietly. “Fancy a game of chess?”

Hethra stood atop the outlook above the town of Sunnydale, the screams music to her ears. All over town she saw the flashes of light, and the ethereal bolts of energy that fired up into the darkness, all finding their way into her being.

Soon.

She could feel their love and passion burning deep within her, the ‘care’ that the human’s felt for each other welling up within her. She fed off it, and it pleased her.

Very soon.

Already she was feeling the energy from beyond the town, those souls who had been infected at the docks and the airport, all travelling ever outward across the globe, all taking the love from whomever they met and plunging the world into a greater darkness.

Very, very soon.

Spike remained silent on Willow’s bed, his eyes watching Buffy below. He rose his head suddenly. “We haven’t got time for this,” “Answer me Spike,” “Do you want to see your watcher again?”

Willow reached across the floor slowly, her foot remaining against Oz’s fur. Her fingers grasped around her cordless phone and she began to slowly dial a number.

“Your mom?”

Buffy sent her head back to the floor. How could she see them? How could she tell them what had happened? She heard Willow’s soft speech from across the room, then the phone being placed down.

“Look on the bright side,” Her friend said, a little chirpier. “At least when Amy’s restored Angel’s soul – you two can be together proper.” “Willow,” Buffy said.

“It’s not as if you can go to school anymore is it,”

Buffy tracked her eyes back across to Spike. “I swear I’m going to kill you,” Spike said nothing, merely took out a cigarette and lit it up. “Willow, when’s Amy getting here?”

“As soon as she can,”

“Good. You stay here with her, do the curse, do whatever you need to,” Willow nodded. She leant forward and patted Oz’s head, slowly rising to her feet and across the room. She booted up her computer and slid the yellow disc into the drive, waiting for the program to load up. “What are you going to do?”

“Rescue Giles, my mom – save the world – what else?”

“Then what?” Willow said, she turned her head a little. “Can you not smoke in here please?” Spike dropped the cigarette and stamped it out on the

carpet. “Thank you,”

“How far are they?”

“Cross town,”

“Figures,” Buffy remarked. “Wait for me outside,” At first Spike didn’t move, but within a few seconds he rose slowly and exited the room, saying nothing. Buffy turned to the seated Willow.

Willow watched in the reflective surface of her monitor’s screen her friend walking slowly across the room. She was distorted in the reflection, her body wider at some points, lankier at others. The darkened screen suddenly burst alight, the program scrolling up on screen. Her hand moved the mouse across the mat to the print option and she clicked the button. Buffy had stopped behind her. “Restoration eh?”

“Yeah,” Willow said. “I found it among Ms Calender’s stuff. I wanted to tell you myself, thought you might like it,”

“I do,”

“Are you going to kill him?”

“I don’t know Wil, I really don’t know.”

“Because you’re a vampire now…” She stopped, sensing her slightly insulting tone. Buffy said nothing, and Willow was unsure whether or not to apologise. Or to tell her about what happened with Xander. She was unsure how to act at all. Buffy’s hand was on her shoulder, motionless. “Wil?”

“Be careful Buffy.” She said, watching Buffy in the monitor’s screen. “I guess if the curse works, you’ll know,”

“Yes,”

Willow said nothing, clicking the button again for a second copy, the sound of the printer kicking into action. She waited, both of them did, until eventually – slowly – Buffy turned and walked silently from the room, closing the door as she went.

Spike stood outside the door, his hands buried deep in his duster jacket’ s pockets, his beady eyes watching Buffy as she emerged from the room holding back tears. She said nothing as she stepped down the garden away from Willow’s house, hearing Spike follow behind, his boots heavy on the concrete pavement.

Inside her bedroom Willow rose from the desk, then as her knees buckled, she dropped to the floor beside Oz. His fur stifling the sound of her tears.

Giles was back in the dank cave that was his prison, his face bruised and bloody from Xander’s punches. The nape of his neck scarred from the burning of the failed process. This was all his fault, he knew that much. Images of Jenny flashed in his mind, of their days, their long happy days. Of Buffy. Willow. He passed out.

Eastern Europe, 170 Years Ago.

“What are you doing to me?” Spike said suddenly. “What are you making me think?”

Pendran said nothing, he just lowered his head back to gaze into the flames, muttering an incantation that fell silent on Spike’s ears.

The long blonde haired vampire suddenly fell to the floor, clutching his chest as a pain shot through him. He gasped loudly, his face sliding in and out of vamp mode as the pain continued. He screamed loudly. Visions. Colours. Lights. Feelings. They all burned and surged through his body.

His eyes burst open and his body launched up. He was in a different part of the cave. On a stone bed. He rolled over, his eyes tracing sight of Pendran across the room. His body ached.

“What did you do old man!?”

“I gave you what you crave. The effect is incomplete.” He paused. “But if you like, then please, return,”

Spike pushed open the door of the mansion in which he, Dru and Angel had taken up residence, flickers of daylight beginning to shine through the breaking clouds. He leant against the doorway for a second before straightening up and wandering down the hallway, kicking open the bedroom door and staring toward Dru who sat by the window in a black dress. She said nothing, his heart burst as he saw him. It rang, beat, drove him wild. A smile licked across his face. Was this love?

Slowly he walked across the room and knelt beside Drusilla, she kept staring out the window. “Angelus will be back soon,” She whispered. “He said he was going to bring me a nice little girl because you did not come back,” “I’m sorry luv, truly,” He kissed her hand. Sensing how much he had let her down.

Never again.

Amy stood in the cold, rapping loudly on the window set into Willow’s door. She couldn’t wait any longer, her hand gripping round the handle and turning it. The door opened slowly and she entered, closing it behind her. She saw Willow’s feet sticking out on the floor behind her bed, her mind kicking in and darting round, screaming as she saw the Werewolf unconscious beside her class mate. Willow bolted up, twisting around to see Amy backing away.

“Amy!” She said wearily. She must have fallen asleep. “It’s okay…this is…well this is Oz,”

“Oz, your boyfriend, Oz,”

“It’s a long story.” She paused, rising and turning to get the spell from her printer. She held it. “I need your help, we need your help.” “Who?”

“All of us…look, Amy, the truth is…”

Giles awoke with Angel staring into his face; his smiling, sneering face. He wanted to lash out, to hurt him, kill him, but he couldn’t, the chains too tight. Angel backed away as Giles straightened his back. “Tell me something,” Giles muttered. “And let’s get something straight before I ask, I’m not trying to make up, I just want some information.”

“Of course,”

“How did you know I was the key,”

“You’re the watcher…trained in the ways of the mystical and the evil…taught to be vigilant and collected in all that he does? How else does one be the mentor of someone so in danger.” “And the legacy of the ‘key’ is…”

“…passed on with the ‘passing on’ of each Slayer, to the watcher of the new.”

“I’ll see you dead!”

Angel smirked. “Not before I see you before your fallen Slayer, in my hell on Earth.”

It was Giles’ turn to laugh. “Do you honestly think Hethra will let it be your Earth,” “I won’t give her that choice.”

“And she won’t give you the chance to even think it!”

Angel pushed forward, sliding closer to Giles. “What do you mean?”

Giles said nothing.

“What the hell is happening to me!” Buffy suddenly demanded. Ever since he had changed her, and she had woken up in the flat all blood thirsty, and the wine…the blood. She pulled back, spinning on her feet. She needed to know, she had to know. Why hadn’t he let her die. Why had he changed her? WHY? She tore back and pulled him up. Her face morphing into her new demonic visage. Spike grabbed her arms and pushed her back, before straightening his jacket and turning on his feet. “Most transformations have settled down by now,” He stated with a nonchalant attitude that angered her. “Most people turned into vampires aren’t slayers – with friends and family!”

“Everyone turned has friends and family. Deal with it.”

“Deal with it?”

“Christ, listen to you. I do a chick a favour and this is how she repays me!”

“You want me to be grateful,” Buffy launched a vicious punch into Spike’s upper body. “I’m grateful.” And another across his face.

Spike grabbed her fist, holding it steady. “Shut it! This was the only way.”

“So you keep saying.”

“And I’m right – however you, or the red head or your watcher reacts – if I hadn’t changed you – you would have died, and everything this planet knows will have been destroyed by your two bit wanker of a boyfriend who is obsessed with destroying everything that is good about this world!” He paused. “If you want an apology you ain’t gonna get it luv, ‘cause I was exactly the same when Dru turned me, only, I quite liked the idea of killing every bugger I met ‘cause I was doing it long before I was changed…but along came this great wise vampire, thought he’d trick me into giving me a soul and the plonker that I am falls for it. Been Dru’s lap-dog ever since, don’t know who I’d be without her…eh Dru,” He nodded his head, and Buffy spun – her face quickly sliding back to her normal visage.

Dru, blood stained and wrecked, stood almost purring in the middle of the road. Her hands seductively on her hips and her head tilted to the left, her eyes wide and menacing. She licked her fangs, smiling. “I came for the little girl, she’s been so naughty, gone and got the curse,” She started to move slowly forward, five other vamps moved out of position behind her. “Why not have a bit of fun boys?” She looked directly at Spike. “He’s not with us any more!” She lowered her eyes from Spike, who tried to hide his hurt.

The five growled and bounded forward.

Angel held Giles hard against the wall, his words angry and unhesitant. His actions cruel and hard, as Gile’s body showed the scars of. “What are you talking about?!”

“Free me, and I’ll tell you!” The Watcher pulled up his chained wrists. Angelus dropped him roughly to the floor, pulling the key from his pocket and undoing the bonds. He then hauled Giles back up and kept a grip on his shoulder, Giles however took the freedom of his hands and lashed out with a vicious attack on Angel’s stomach, knocking the vampire back and giving him enough of a chance to bolt through the door, slide round, and wait for Angel to dash out by pausing to the left.

As Angelus roared through the door Giles lashed out his arm and caught Angel’s neck roughly, the vampire dropping. Giles swung round behind him, latched his arm around the vamps neck and threw the demon into the wall whilst keeping a firm hold. “Now, you and I are gonna have a little talk!” Giles roared.

Willow sat on the bed beside the bemused Amy. “…is a vampire, Buffy’s the slayer and Oz is a werewolf…”

“Forget all that, I’ll explain it more after – can you work this spell?”

The trainee witch gave it another quick skim-through. “I think so, when?”

“Now, what do we need?”

Eastern Europe, 165 Years Ago.

Spike moved quickly through the darkened forests, the route from years before still clear in his mind. In the years he had been absent the ‘feeling ‘ that Pendran had bestowed upon him had moved and circulated his system. He had grown to care for Dru more beyond the quick shag phase that followed each meal, and he no longer merely disliked Angelus, he abhorred him. Sure they had fun, killed a few people, ordered some chaos – he was just so…

The vampire sensed something wrong before he was even at the mouth of the cave. He didn’t know what, but as he skipped up the heavy rocks his body ached with a tingle of some kind, a sense that forced him to speed up and move ever quicker upward. It became almost a run.

A brunette headed girl spun on her feet, her loose dress flying through the air as she kicked herself into a cartwheel and slammed her feet into Pendran’s body. He fell against the wall and dropped to the ground.

Spike slid himself into the cave at the moment the girl rose a stake and drove it forcefully through the ancient vampire’s heart: he exploded to dust, and Spike’s voice was carried into the darkness.

The girl spun and spun the stake in her hand. With a quick motion she launched it across the room directly at the blonde vamp, he ducked aside and belted forward, knocking the girl to the floor and slamming his leg heavily into her chest. He was a monster. He was a vampire again. His anger manifested into vicious blows that connected against the girl. Letting the blood fly and the bones crack. Many, many blows. “Who are you?” He demanded, hauling her all but weakened body off the ground. She said nothing, so he slammed his fist heavy into her face, waiting for her to pull it back.

“I am Rachel, I am the Slayer,”

“I’ve heard about you…” He said. “…the only one capable enough to kill our kind,”

“It’s my…job!”

“Well, you know what, after careful consideration we’ve decided to let you go.”

With a surge of strength Spike ran toward the cave entrance and went to throw Rachel’s body over the mountain, but didn’t entirely release her and with the momentum in swing he looked away as he drove her head against the solid rock, crushing the skull and whatever was within. He glanced down to make sure she as dead before dropping her body, listening to it crash through the trees and onto the forest floor.

Giles pushed Angelus through the cell’s doorway and hard against the rock wall, Angel grunting as he tried to loosen the grip. Who’d have thought Giles this strong?

“How do I stop her?” Giles demanded.

“Well that’s for me to know Rupert, and you to…”

Giles rammed Angel harder against the wall.

“Listen to me you pillock – you’ve unleashed a power on this world you cannot control,” Angel spinned round, slamming his fists to knock away Giles’s hold and creating a moment of silent, unmoving tension between the pair.

Angel watched the man adjust his glasses, pausing his fingers on a heavy cut on his lip. If Giles knew anything it was the unknown, sure he was a 240 year old vampire, but Giles had devoted the better part of his life to researching the insidious forces of evil, Angel on the other hand had devoted his life to actually being one.

Giles, through the cracked lens of his glasses, watched the evil before him. Angelus was capable of so much, but there was still so much he could learn. He was sadistic, cruel, and downright whimsy, but the one thing he didn’t have was patience. The creature before him wanted Buffy destroyed and the world his own: whichever way he could.

“Talk,” Angelus said softly.

“Hethra doesn’t just convert the human soul to darkness, she harnesses it. With every soul, every mortal that becomes under her will their energy is directed into her. She stores it, wells it up until powerful enough to become,”

“Become, become what?”

“The demon that is her real guise,”

“She’s in her real guise,”

“No! Like most you’ve been fooled, she appears to mankind what they most desire, a beautiful women, but at the core she is a demon. Much like you. Only she is more dangerous and infinitely more powerful.”

“You’re lying,”

“It will take longer this time without her henchmen collecting…”

“…but she already has her favourites…” Cordelia slunk through the streets of Sunnydale, her skirt flowing in the slight breeze, her head flinching and staring at the houses on either side. Harmony was at her sight: obedient Harmony, ever loyal to the real Cordelia.

“…they will grow in power as they take the human existence…” Giles continued.

Cordelia suddenly pointed her hand outward to a flinching curtain both girls sensing the adoration within the walls and moving quickly toward. Cordelia lashed out her hands and the door fell from it’s hinges. She entered, and grabbed a young woman who darted from the front room to try for the stairs: a young child crying. Cordelia stroked her hands down the girl’s petrified neck before thrusting her fingers round the base of her neck. The screaming was enough to wake the dead, but neither Cordelia or Harmony cared. Harmony began up the stairs.

“…when she has enough, then the demon will rise…”

“…she will engulf the world with her evil, and nothing will be able to stop her. Not even me. Now, I say again, how do I stop her?”

Angel didn’t know what to believe, if what this man was saying was true then his plan was just, how would he say, fucked. But if he was lying, it could through things even more into chaos. He liked chaos. Giles panted before him, his mind working through the options with speed, his eyebrows frowning as something dawned. He started to chuckle, and Angel smiled, Giles knew what he had to do: he had to kill her himself.

Without word the librarian turned and started moving out of the cell, Angel watching him go. As Giles reached the doorway he turned his head a little back, half expecting to be attacked from behind by Angel, but the vampire just stood in the shadows. He crept out, beginning to run down the corridors.

A few moments later Angel began walking out of the cell and down the corridor, he entered the main cavern and watched Giles lash out as Xander tried to stop him. The look on the librarian’s face at that made Angel want to laugh. Xander reared up, angered, and went to follow his old friend out but Angel called out. “Leave him go!”

“Why?”

“Because, my young fool, I say so!”

“What of the Slayer?”

“She’ll still come, my boy Spike will make sure of that?”

“What if Giles gets to her first?”

Angel chuckled. “Doubt it, he’s got other things on his mind…like…his funeral,”

Amy looked up, her eyebrows raised in bemusement. An orb of thesula? “What the hell’s an…” She started. Willow stretched across the room, grabbing a circular object from her desk and tossing it across to the bed. “Giles gave it me for my birthday, said it had great mystical power.” She paused. “I’ve been, using it as a paperweight,” “Go girl,” Amy grinned, beginning her reading of the spell list.

Willow lowered her eyes back to Oz before checking the clock, still a few hours to go before he came back to his usual – cute – self. “Amy,” Amy looked up. “Yeah?”

“It’s just…I don’t know if I should tell you,”

“Then don’t.”

“I kissed Xander, earlier this afternoon, we didn’t mean to. It just happened. I love Oz, I do,”

Amy nodded. “And?”

“And…tell me everything is gonna be okay?”

“No can do, as far as I know, a kiss isn’t nothing,” She paused. “I’m ready,”

“But me and Oz?” Willow stuttered confused.

“Are you and Xander going to kiss again?”

“Oh I hope…no. Never.”

“Then cool…just don’t tell Oz, nice guys tend to over-react, shall we start?”

“Sure. And no. Thanks,”

Buffy dived upward and slammed her foot into the oncoming vamps face, she twisted in the air and landed on her hands, pushing her body away from the ground to drive her legs into a second vamp. She whipped a stake out, slammed her fists into the creature’s face and drove the stake through his heart. The vamp exploded into dust and she dropped to the ground, immediately spinning round and knocking the first vamp from his feet with a sweeping kick. She grabbed him as he fell and threw him across the road into a tree: and a branch that pointed out. There was a cry of alarm before he exploded to dust.

Spike swung left as a vamp lunged for him, he leg rising to knock into the creature’s upper torso. This guy was nothing. He grabbed the scruff of his neck and launched him into the air.

“Heads up cutie!” He called over. Buffy caught the vampire and swung him heavy to the ground.

Dru stood watching Spike, his quick moved, inspired movement. She purred in satisfaction at his body and his figure. But it was quickly wiped from her mind, he had betrayed her, he had plotted against her Angelus. She paced away quickly, slinking away from the brawl.

Spike was knocked to the ground by the fourth vamp who appeared from nowhere with a sterling roundhouse kick. Spike followed up by lashing out with his leg and kicking him away before pouncing up and slamming his fist into the vamps face before grabbing his neck and twisting it sharply.

There was a scream as the vamp Buffy was dealing with exploded to dust, she heard Spike shout over and she turned, rising slowly to her feet before launching the stake through the air and imbedding it neatly through the vamps face. Spike’s head shot up, a little nervous, as the vamp exploded to dust. A few inches to the left and he was dust, literally.

“I’m glad you still got your aim babe,” Spike said, thankfully. “Not bad eh Dru,” There was no answer, and they both realised that she was gone. Buffy thought of only one person: Willow. She started off back where they came from, Spike stopping her.

“You need to deal with Angel,” He said.

“My priority is with my friends,”

“You won’t have any friends if the world dies,”

She knew he was right. “You better look out for her,” She said quickly. “How else am I gonna get our goody-Angel back,” He smiled, a glint in his eye. “Angel’s in some caverns under the graveyard…” “…the Master’s lair,” She said slowly. Duh!

“The who?”

“He was the bad guy before you got here – you two would have got on great,”

She said. “Pity I impaled his ass,”

“Damn shame,”

“Go,”

“Good luck,” Spike said dryly.

Buffy didn’t respond, she just turned and started to run. Spike watched her go, before turning and walking back where he had come from.

Eastern Europe, 165 Years Ago.

Spike couldn’t believe his luck. After five years debate about whether or not he wanted the whole deal, now he’d decided, Pendran was dead. He wandered over to the pile of ashes on the ground, scooping his hand down and filling the cup he made with his fingers. Bitch! He threw the dust around the cave and slammed his arm across a row of ancient artefacts, he knocked a book to the floor and it fell open. He paused, leaning down and taking it up.

“Well…well…well…” He said with a grin. “When one dies another it called, how quaint,” He folded the book under his arm.

He moved quickly toward the cave entrance and took one final look round: bloody sentimentality. He couldn’t help but feel something for this place – where he had become half way. Stuck with the lust of a vampire and the quaint baggage of a human. He dived out the cave and started down the mountain.

“If it’s there job to ensure we don’t survive…I think I’ve found my calling. As long as there’s some cute bitch slayer, I’ll be there to kill her,”

“It’s a nice view,” Giles said softly, his feet walking slowly up the soft grass that led to the look-out.

Hethra turned her head. “I knew you’d come,” She spun fully, her feminine curves faded and replaced with patches of blue scales. Her face distorted with patches of the same scales interspersed around sections of her smooth pale flesh. Her left eye was human, but her right had become large, circular and instead of a multi laced pupil the colouring throbbed an even black all over. Her tongue was becoming more lizard like, thinner and pointier. Her head seemed longer, more cylindrical and Giles could make out stumps of what could be horns growing from her scalp.

“Of course,” He said, unmoved by the half-monster before him he drew a sword.

Hethra began to laugh. “You think you can kill me with that,”

Giles said. “I have to try,”

“But Rupert, why would you want to?” Jenny said. Giles blinked, where Hethra had been there was Jenny. His sweet, radiant Jennifer. The sword dropped as his mind flushed with thoughts of relief, of love and warmth. She wasn’t dead, but she was.

The teacher began to move slowly toward Rupert, until she was only a breath away. Her hand ran up under his tweed jacket, touching his skin and rubbing gently. He pulled back a breath, his hand caressing down her back.

It was so good to see her again, they lent in to kiss.

Willow and Amy looked up, their eyes meeting with an equal stare of confusion…the spell was complete.

“What if it didn’t work?” Willow said.

“I followed what’s here,” Amy replied.

“But how do we know?” Amy just looked toward Willow with a shrug. “Yeah, sorry,” She had to know. “What did it feel like? Did anything happen to you, did you, ya know,” She shook her body, pretending something was firing through her. “Feel anything?”

“No, nothing. I just said the words, and, that’s it.”

They both looked stumped, Willow glanced down to Oz, then across to a photo on the side. Buffy – Xander. She had to know. “Do it again,” She ordered suddenly, getting up and grabbing a couple of stakes from the drawer. Buffy had given them to her. “Stay here,” “Where are you going?”

“To Buffy…keep doing it, something has to happen,”

She darted across to the door. “Good luck,” Amy said.

“You too,” Willow smiled.

As she opened the door a hand grabbed her throat – Amy screamed as she watched a female drag Willow from the room and toss her into her garden. Amy panicked as the female she had seen turned toward her and smiled. “May I?” Amy nodded. Watching as the female stepped across the doorway – her face morphing into demon form.

Amy screamed.

The sewers stank. Buffy’s shoes were soaked and plastered with grime, her socks beneath damp and squidgy. She didn’t care, she just pressed on. She didn’t know what she would do when she got there: whether Angel would have his soul back, or whether the world ended as soon as she stepped into the room. It wouldn’t end though _ it would just become different, a world filled with evil and chaos and demons. Demons.

She’d fit right in then.

Willow pushed herself up, her body aching. She could hear Amy’s screams, objects smashing. The sound of flesh hitting flesh. Paper tearing. There was a sudden explosion from inside the room, Willow ducking with a scream. She ran forward, fumbling with the stake in her hand, and skidding up the steps to see Dru holding a kicking Amy; her face scratched and bloody. Willow’s eyes fell to the burning computer: the curse.

“Amy!” Willow called out.

Dru spun round with wide staring eyes.

In a flash Willow shot her arm out and prepared to throw the stake, Dru smiled, the child didn’t have a hope, and Willow could see that she was thinking this. “Do you see this face!” She cried out, her hand shaking. “Resolve face! You ain’t seen it before but you’re gonna be…damnded tootin ‘…remembering it, after your death,” “Yeah, right!” A voice chirped up from behind. Willow jumped as she felt a hand slapping her posterior, she squealed as she skipped in surprise, the stake dropping into Spike’s outstretched hand.

“Let’s not be naughty now kid,” Spike said, squeezing quickly past Willow between her and Dru.

“Spike,” Dru said, throwing Amy to the floor and spinning round. She lashed out, and Spike blocked her. He grabbed her arms and upper torso and threw her with strength out the window. Willow cried out as it gave way, shards of glass dropping both into her room and out onto the flower bed in the garden.

Spike looked to Willow. “You cursed him?”

“We tried but we don’t know if it worked…also…” She gestured to the burning stump.

“Bugger,” He said. “Ah well, so much for that idea.”

“May I remind you about Buffy and Angel, the world!” Spike shrugged. “Who cares?” He darted forward. Willow stepped forward, her foot contacting with Spike’s ankle and making him fall heavily into the wall. She held up a stake.

“Hey – do I look meek right now to you? Do I!” She yelled. “Where are they?!”

“Over in the graveyard,” He hopped up, staring her down. Humans! “She said something about a Master,” “The Master’s lair,” Willow said quietly.

“That’s the place chick, now if you’ll excuse me,” He bolted out the window, landing beside the standing Dru and knocking her against the wall of the house with a side kick.

Willow turned seeing Amy’s lifeless body crumpled on the floor behind Oz.

Her eyes hovered on them both, sadness becoming her. “Gulp,” She said.

As she left the house she took a side glance to the fighting vampires, she turned and started running down the sidewalk. Spike caught a flash of her in one of the streetlamps. “Stupid bitch…” He commented, ducking a punch from Dru. “…oh hell…what do I care if the kid gets herself killed…”

Giles and Jenny’s lips help in a lock. The passion and love they felt for each other flowing through the connection. Their hands and arms caressed every inch of their body and slowly, surely, Giles began to realise. “You’re…” She bit playfully at his bottom lip, he continued to pull away.

“…not…Jenny,” His eyes stared down at the woman. Her looks. Her curves. Her eyes. Her smile. It was Jenny. He went to kiss her again before pulling himself away.

“I can’t do this?” He stuttered.

“Sure you can,” Jenny coyed.

Buffy saw the light ahead of her and speeded up, her feet slipping in the dirty water that littered the base of the sewers. It still wasn’t clear. There was no certainty that Willow could get the curse to work, and if that was the case, and she held back, then it could cause greater problems. Angelus would win, and he would reign. Yet could she kill him. could she kill someone who she loved so much, that she loved with all of her heart. The one person in all the world that made her ache. Angel, her darling, her love, her life. Could she kill him? She knew that the curse should have worked by now, so if Angel wasn’t Angel, then…

WHAM! Something struck her from behind and she dropped. She twisted as she fell and sent the water cascading up from her back. It splashed down around her and onto her attacker, whom she was half expecting to be Angel. “Xander?”

“Fancy a second round?” He said dryly.

“With pleasure.” She rammed her leg up and whacked it into his stomach, he grimaced with the pain but took it, grabbing her foot and hauling her into the nearby wall. She tried to lash out again, and then again, but he was able to intercept each move and react according. She had to speed things up, she was the slayer…with a speedy agility she flipped herself over and landed squarely on her feet, ripping off a few punches that he was able to block before she thrust out her leg and caught him a glancing blow across his face. He reeled back a pace or two allowing her enough time to rip off with several more blows, each connecting with her foe. She grabbed his body and tossed him to the floor, thrusting heavily onto his chest. He coughed out.

“Where is he?” Xander just laughed. Buffy suddenly felt her face changing, her anger, her desire. She whipped down and grabbed the neckline of his shirt. She pulled him and thrust him into the wall. Lashing out with her fist and knocking his head to the left. Her fangs glistened in the flickering torchlight, shining in from the main room. “I say again, where is he?”

Spike had forgotten about everything now, he was this close to getting Dru back. What did he care if Angel killed Buffy or Hethra engulfed the world. He was a half-demon, he’d survive. He lashed out at Dru, and laughed.

She knew this was a bad idea. She should have stayed with Amy. Would good could she do anyway, Buffy could handle herself. The curse may have worked. Or it might not and she could be battling him right now. What of the world? And Giles. She had never run this fast, she knew where she was heading, the crypt where all this had begun. The crypt where she had faced her first vampire and screamed the first of her blood curdling screams. She couldn’t just sit around hoping things would work out. Or should she? Worry. Was it just that she wanted to see Angel dead for what he did to Ms Calender. Could she ever love or trust him again. Sure he was Buffy’s boyfriend and all, but everything was different now. Spike had ensured that. The soles of her trainers pounded on the concrete, her head flinching as a scream erupted into the night. What would she find when she reached the cavern? Buffy, dead? Giles, dead? Angel grinning. Maybe she would be walking in on a compromising situation between a restored Angel and an ecstatic Buffy. What would she care, she was one of them now. No! She screamed aloud to herself. Buffy knew better than that. Or did she? She may not have killed her yet but what if this was all transitional. What if, the very moment she entered the cavern Buffy grabbed her and fed off her. Would she turn her into a vampire too? Willow the vampire. She shuddered. Wonderful evil bitch shy little me would make! Willow, somewhat even surprising herself, jumped over a fence that led the back way into the graveyard. All she had to do was get to Buffy, tell her what was going on. Tell her of Spike and Dru. And Amy. Was she dead. Why hadn’t she stayed to check? She skidded in the mud and slowed as she approached the crypt. Memories shot into her mind. “Calm down Wil,” She said to herself. “This was your bright idea, help Buffy, remember,” It’s all she could do. This was all she knew. Danger. Ironic isn’t it, she thought.

Giles continued pacing back from Jenny, trying to keep his eyes from her beautiful body. Jenny continued to act coy, trying to tap into Giles’ core, trying to get him turned on. To get him pulsating. It wasn’t working, time for plan B. Hethra called on her welling strength and fired a bolt at the sword that had been dropped. It shattered into two, and she bent down seductively to pick it up. “So you won’t fuck me,” She said. Giles looked up. “Let’s see if you can hurt me!” She lunged forward with the blade, Giles diving aside as Jenny drove the blade into the soft soil.

“Your Watcher isn’t here,” A voice came from behind, she spun, keeping her grip on Xander and forcing her face back to normal. Angel? “Lover,” He said it mockingly and she knew in that flash the curse hadn’t worked. Without even looking at who she was holding she lashed out with a punch that floored him unconscious. She turned to face Angelus.

“Then where is he?”

“I could tell you, but, that would spoil the fun. I’ve been waiting all night for you!”

He lunged forward and grabbed her strongly, tussling with her, exchanging quick blows before they both fell back and slipped down the rocky slop that led into the main cavern. They sprung to their feet in seconds and she jumped up with a sound kick that thrust him agonisingly against a wall. He growled his vamp face on and bound forward, his black coat flying out behind him as he rocked her jaw with a deafening crack. She was thrown back, sliding to a halt onto the floor, and doing her best not to lose the face. She merely restood, and kept her ground, waiting for an opening.

Giles rolled to one side, lunging forward to grab the other sword that lay on the ground. He rose it into the air to block the next swipe which fell down atop him, the metal clashing. He kicked with his blade, forcing Jenny away as he rose. She was laughing. Toying with him.

This wasn’t Jenny.

Willow’s feet sunk deep into the water sending small cascades spilling up as she ran. She could hear the blows echoing up the tunnel. She could see Xander’s body motionless. She skipped over him.

Angel cracked the back of his hand across Buffy’s skull and she fell again, only to kick out with her legs and re-stand before him. They shared more blows, heavier blows, before they backed off. Again the stalemate. Angel started to laugh.

“You do realise your Watcher’s gonna die.”

Buffy stopped.

“What do you mean?”

“He went to kill Hethra, he’s the only guy who can, only the odds are stacked just a little on my girl!”

Willow burst into the cavern crying out Buffy’s name, slipped on a patch of wet rock and went tumbling to the floor with a few pained groans, she clambered back up as Buffy moved quickly across to her, watching Angelus all the way. “Willow what are you doing here? What about Amy?” The look on Willow’s face told Buffy everything she needed to know. “Giles is trying to kill Hethra.” She said.

“What? Will he, I mean, can he beat her?” Willow stuttered.

“Doubt it,” Angel jibed over from across the room, starting to pace a bit.

“So what’s it gonna be?”

Spike rose up from the ground, again, his head shaking wearily. He’d had enough of this foreplay. As Dru bolted forward her ripped off a roundhouse and her frail body glided through the air and crashed against the sturdy trunk of a tree. She dropped to the ground, unconscious. He sauntered over and picked her up, hauling her onto his shoulder. “Don’t worry pet, everything’ll be better now, just you wait. We’ll be back to normal. No Angelus interrupting us. No Slayer…” He frowned, thinking of Pendran. “…just you and me pet. For now,” He set off down the road.

Giles closed his eyes and stared deep toward the smiling figure of Jenny, he tried to forget, tried to wipe his feelings from his mind. This wasn’t his Jenny. This was a sick and warped trick, courtesy of Hethra. He rose his blade and swung forward, recalling many training sessions, recalling his own past. Jenny smiled, swinging her own blade back to defend as she watched the tears trickle down Giles’ face – he wouldn’t be able to keep this strength up for long!

Jenny found herself tumbling backwards as Giles kept anticipating and foiling her defensive, and attacking techniques. The two blades clashed together with agonising regularity and speed. Sparks flew into the darkness, the sounds of the duel echoing around Sunnydale. Yet with every passing moment Hethra was growing stronger, and she could feel it.

She could feel it within her, flowing and pumping around her body. The scales strengthening and multiplying across her skin. The horns beginning to push out beneath the facade that was Jennifer Calender.

Giles roared as he slashed the blade through the air with such force Hethra’s blade tumbled to the ground a few metres away, stabbing the soil. Jenny slipped on the grass and tumbled to the ground, Giles rearing up above her, the sword raised high.

“I just think it’s rather odd that a nation that prides itself on its

virility should feel compelled to strap on forty pounds of protective gear

just in order to play rugby,” Giles smiled.

“Is this your strategy for a first date: dissing my country’s national past-time?” A tear hovered on his cheek.

“Did you just say…date?” The sword trembled in his hand.

“You noticed that, huh?” The tear fell, as did the sword.

The whole world began to shake, at first calmly, the tremors shifting the pebbles on the beach no more than a few millimetres. But as things moved on everything began to shake and tremble, the heavens were falling.

Atop the outlook on Sunnydale Hethra, with Gile’s sitting a few feet away, was screaming. Her energy, her power was fading. Shooting out of her body and her mind and speeding back to all those who had been taken. The lives and loves were fast being restored, and there was nothing she could do. She was screaming, the blood trickling from her mind, the scales tumbling to the floor, her horns sliding back into her head. She rolled her head to face Giles, his image fading and distorting as she was slowly sucked back into the dimensional void.

He said nothing.

The cavern was shaking, the rocks from above crumbling and raining down. Willow shot her head up, Buffy and Angel shared glances. He looked concerned, angered. Buffy picked up on what he was thinking. “He beat her,” She said softly. The quake continued, and as the tremors became greater, Willow found herself darting up to the tunnel, turning back to see the ground splitting, Angel and Buffy diving aside to avoid dropping into the divide. They shot their heads up, Angel maniacally laughing. “Ah well, can’t win them all!” He shot forward. Willow cried out in alarm and Buffy reacted fast – rolling aside. She kicked out and caught him heavily in the side, his body dropping away from her, crashing into the table and knocking it down the divide. The tremors stopped, the air fell silent, only Buffy and Angel’s breathing audible.

Willow watched from her position in the tunnel above, unable to react, unable to do anything but watch. She heard a groan behind her and she turned, raising a stake quickly.

“Wil?” Xander groaned. She said nothing, only watched. “Wil is that you?”

“Xander?” She said, unsure. Was it really him?

“Man do I need an aspirin!” He pushed himself up and sat against the wall, slowly levelling his eyes on her stare. “What? Quit it Wil you’re looking at me as if I’m some evil fiend…if it’s the kiss, I’m sorry. It should never have happened.”

Willow grinned and crawled over to him. She was just glad to have Xander back. She wrapped her arms slowly around his neck and pressed her head in for the hug, he couldn’t help but tighten his arms on her, and ever so slowly kiss the top of her hair. She did nothing, only pull back with a smile.

“Oh, god, Buffy,” She said suddenly, turning away from Xander and moving back down the tunnel, Xander crept up from behind. They looked down into the cavern, both of them now on their feet and standing a few metres apart. They were tired, both wounded, both weary.

“Shall we do something?” Xander breathed.

“I don’t think we can,” Willow said softly, an image of Buffy with her sparkling fangs colliding into her mind. “Not any more,”

Giles watched from his vantage point above Sunnydale all of the little houses. His face was smeared with mud and dried blood, tears caked through the grime creating mini highways of pain. On the ground where Hethra had fallen was now only a patch of burnt grass.

He rose slowly and straightened his jacket, wandering slowly over to the edge of the viewpoint and gripping the hilt of the sword which stood stabbed into the ground. He pulled it strongly and held it for a moment, before turned on his heels and walking hastily down the slope.

He’d had enough.

It was Angel who moved first, spinning toward Buffy and lashing out with his hands, cracking them first toward her face and then lower after these were blocked into her midriff. Contact. She doubled over and his knee shot up to crack into her face. She staggered back, pulling back with a kick that slammed into his knee, causing him to double down and she followed up with a towering kick that rocked his skull and sent him grabbing wildly in the air. He took hold of her leg and spun it, forcing her over and toward the rock floor, she dropped her palms against the rock and used force to push herself into a flip that sent her over Angel’s head, and kicking him neatly as she fell in the back of the head. As she landed she immediately followed up with several punches that landed, and a couple that didn’t. Angel’s foot was able to get in another powerhouse whack against her stomach and she dropped, punching his legs and dropping him too. Both rose, driving at each other with a succession of neatly placed blows that were both blocked superbly by each. They drew back.

“Who needs the movies, huh!” Xander quipped. Buffy lashed out with her leg, slamming her foot against Angel’s chest

and then pummelling in with a barrage of fists, before grabbing his shoulder and hauling him over her head to the rock floor. He tried to retaliate as he landed but she hopped back before driving forward again into her enemy. Her boyfriend.

Angel side stepped as Buffy attacked again, his fist slamming into her back and then whipping around her chest, she ducked down into a crouching roll and then hopped back up. She grabbed a loose rock from the floor and lobbed it as she turned, Angel ducked away as the object hurtled behind him and crashed down the crevice with a loud echo. She remained motionless, watching him stand. They both panted heavily. Angel smiled.

“Can’t take the heat?”

“Then don’t light a fire,”

“What, not even playing with matches? I’ve beaten you. You know it, I know it, we all know it.”

“Not quite,” Buffy said, dashing forward and dropping as she neared Angel, her legs taking him out from the ground. She rolled quickly when she stopped and hopped to her feet, spinning back to crack her foot heavily into Angel’s back, pinning him against the floor. “Hold on,” She said. “I think I’ve got something on my foot. Let me just get it off.” Angel growled beneath her, unable to move. Buffy whipped her hand round and felt for the stake she knew was there…thought was there.

Willow could see she didn’t have anything on her. She watched as Buffy glanced either side, looking for something. She suddenly remembered what she was holding and called out Buffy’s name. The Slayer looked up to see Willow throwing the stake wildly through the air, the object cluttering to the stone floor five metres behind her. It teetered on the edge of the crevice before dropping down, wedging onto a ledge about half a metre down. Willow screwed up her face in apology.

Giles entered the crypt, and through the passageway at the back, his feet dropping into the sewers and splashing into the water. His pace had quickened.

Buffy flinched her head, releasing the pressure a little on her foot as she prepared for a leap. Angel didn’t give her the chance and roared up from beneath her sending her into a half flip that caused her to crack down onto the stone floor. She winced, her vampire face flashing across her, as she continued to keep control. She had to. Angel appeared above her, staring down, his face sliding into vamp mode, his fangs caked in blood. “You were saying?” He curled his lips into a smile, flexing his fist.

Willow and Xander heard the footsteps down the pipes, the splashing of water. They glanced at each other, expecting a vampire, or Spike, or…” Giles!” Xander breathed. “Man are we glad to see you, you gotta help Buffy, she’s…” He turned his eyeballs down to the scene below. Giles just stared at him, his eyes hollow as he passed by Willow. She scowled, he looked, so unlike Giles. She wanted to ask what was wrong, to find out what had happened. To maybe put it all right. But there wasn’t time. The tip of his sword brushed over her jeans as he moved past them, and started down into the main cavern.

Buffy stared up into the eyes of her boyfriend. Only they weren’t. She knew that. Even now, she and Angel would never be together. There was no-way to restore him. He would always want her dead. A tear dripped to the floor from her eye. “I love you,” She whispered.

Angel heard it and laughed, then mockingly, repeated the three words.

The Slayer whipped herself into a back roll, surprising Angel, and spin kicking him twice to the floor. As he dropped he growled his head round and spun to re-attack but she was gone, darted away behind her. She skidded to the floor and thrust her hand down to grab for the stake, the wood like an old friend and a new enemy in her hand. As she rose her head back to face Angel, to watch his angered body moving toward her with assured and strong steps she focused on only one thing. Not on the shadow moving behind the demon, or the glint of light. Nor on Willow and Xander suddenly shouting. Her mind focused on him, it blocked out all sounds and all memories of tender kisses and passionate, warm embraces. Of all that had been and all that would have. She rose, gripped the wood and started to run forward. She could see Angel opening his mouth, the fangs, the cry. It didn’t matter. She blinked a tear from her eyes, the stake held outward.

Giles bounded over the crevice and moved quickly toward the moving Angel, Buffy blocked from his view, his eyes focused clearly on the black duster jacket that caught the brief funnels of light. He rose the sword.

Angel could see the stake in Buffy’s hand and rose to defend it, but Buffy anticipated this move, and lowered it slightly. Both of their bodies skidded to a halt and she rose her fist to block a punch, before lashing out with her own. His body dropped after the rocking connection. Defenceless. His head moved a little, his eyes catching sight of the raising stake. Of Buffy’s face. A face part of him had once loved.

Buffy drove the weapon with force through the air, another tear dribbling down her face. Then there was a sudden glare of light against metal interrupting her concentration, her eyes furrowed. What?

Giles’ sword.

Angel’s neck.

His eyes widening in agony, his mouth emitting a heavy cry. Angel’s head remained in this position as it was severed from his body, exploding to dust.

Giles sword slowed in the air.

Angel’s body crumbled into nothing before both Watcher and Slayer, his presence now a memory, a nightmare, a dream.

Buffy wanted to cry, but she couldn’t. The figure of Giles now blurred into focus. She wanted to scream. The sword slowed in the air, his arms relaxing as his strength dropped. The metal object dropped and clanged against the rock. She wanted to…their eyes met. Tears.

The stake.

Buffy’s reaction was quick, her arms fast to drop and catch the falling body of Giles, her tears rolling down her face, her mind a blur. She lowered her Watcher slowly to the floor, staring deep into his eyes as a final tear dripped to the floor. She was saying something, but she didn’t know what. His head was shaking, his body convulsing, but she couldn’t do anything. She was trying to apologise, but he could not say anything. There was too much blood. There was too much pain.

Willow cried out from their observation point, Xander trying and failing to hold her back as she slid herself out of the tunnel and down the rock. She was wailing as she hopped over the rock and crawled up beside the fallen Giles. Xander was slower, he didn’t know what to do.

Buffy raised her eyes to Willow, both full of tears. Slowly, her vampire faced slid into view and she looked back down at Giles’ blood. Could she? The look on her friend’s face said it all. How could she have even thought it? “I want to blame you I want it to be your fault. I want this whole thing to be on your head, but, I can’t. I’m sorry for getting you killed I’m sorry I couldn’t kill him when I had the chance” Her own words echoed in her head and she spluttered on her tears, she took one look at Willow and bolted up. She went to whisper an apology. Something. Anything. Nothing, her feet bolted and she ran, she jumped across the crevice and pushed past Xander without word. How could she?

Willow lowered her head, the tears falling freely. She felt Xander place his hand on her shoulder, and this alone caused her to let out a wail, he lowered himself to his knees and let Willow turn into him. His arms closed around her and she crumbled into his warmth.

He didn’t know what to say.

So he remained silent.

Epilogue

Willow sat alone in the school library, her legs dangling off the desk. She was staring at nothing, yet everything; the books, the space, the mess flooded back memories She could hear Giles calling out to her from the library. His odd jokes and quips. His stern voice when they did something wrong. She smirked, fading it from her otherwise solemn face. Moon pie.

“That is the thrill of living on the Hellmouth – one has a veritable cornucopia of fiends, devils, and ghouls to engage…pardon me for finding the glass half full.”

Buffy appeared suddenly through the library doors, her chirpy smile lighting up the day, as she went about her troubled life with her usual panache, to begin her weapon training with the ever eager Giles. She pitied the man’s bones after some sessions with her friend. Again Willow flexed a smile. Though she wanted to cry.

“You can’t spend the rest of your life waiting for Xander to wake up and smell the hottie. Make a move. Do the talking thing.” The girl kicked herself down from the side, sliding a book she had pulled from the shelf into her hands before she took one final look round. It was summer. Next year they would be seniors…she held back another tear, before speeding up and pushing out the door before beginning the long walk down the corridor. Passing rooms and lockers and water fountains. All of which shot back painful memories she desired so much, but not now.

“I have volumes of lore, of prophecies and predictions. But I don’t have an instruction manual. We feel our way as we go along. And I must say, as a Slayer you’re doing pretty well,”

She glanced to her watch before speeding her pace, keeping her eyes focused only on the floor. Her mind buzzed of grief and sadness, of Oz, and Xander. She was supposed to be meeting the former for lunch, she was supposed to meet him out front in half an hour. She was supposed to be alone with him. But Xander had suggested they all do something. All meaning the three of them, plus Amy, who would meet them there. Xander said it would ‘take their minds off things’, she knew he was right, she knew it was for the best. But she didn’t want her mind off it, how could she. Buffy was a…a vampire, and she was gone. No-one had seen her. And Giles. Giles was…dead. She passed one of the school benches, and the first tear of the day fell.

“I’m in a little restaurant, having ziti, and there’re no more tables so they have to seat this guy with me, and it’s John Cusack,”

Anywhere but here. She looked up as she heard a horn beeping, seeing Xander in the passenger seat of the van, Cordy beside him. They were arm-in-arm. Her mind recalled the kiss, both of them, and this wanted to make her cry more.

“You okay?” Was the first words that came out of Oz’s lips, his voice making her smile and sniff back the tears. His arm slid around her shoulder, their faces pressing closer together, almost rubbing noses. She nodded. “Well that ‘s good,” He pecked her lips with his own, and she wanted to stay in the moment forever, but Xander beeped the horn again, twice. “Come on guys, I want pizza!”

“You always want pizza!” Cordy snapped.

“Well there are things you always want but you cannot have them can you,” he lent in and nuzzled her neck. She screeched. “Unless you ask real nice,” “Guys,” Willow said, sliding into the van and pushing Cordy and Xander closer together. “Could we not in public, vomit factor and all,” “And what about you and Oz,” Xander said.

Oz smiled as he nudged closer against Willow. “That’s different guys,” He said, starting up the engine. “We’re in love,” Willow turned her head. “We are?”

Oz pressed down on the accelerator and pulled away from the school, Xander shouted something about never having to go back there again, which wasn’t entirely true but it would do. Willow focused on Oz, and Cordelia pondered something or other. She let her hand rest on Xander’s knee. Oz watched Willow snuggle close in the wing mirror, her head resting on his arm, her eyes closing. He knew it had hit her hard, harder than the rest. He freed up one hand from the wheel and hugged it around her. She smiled, keeping her eyes closed, hoping it was Oz and not Cordelia. Eww!

“When this is over, I’m thinking pineapple pizza and teen-video movie fest – possibly something from the Ringwald oeuvre,”

Joyce sat alone in Buffy’s bedroom, Mr Gordy tight in her arms. All she could think of was her daughter, and what Mr Giles had said. Tears flowed readily. What else could she do? A note containing only a few short words lay on the floor at her feet: I’m sorry Mom. Buffy.

Sunnydale was silent that night, only the slight howling of the wind through the trees and the occasional dog barking troubling the ears of anyone out that night. For the first time in months there was a peace, a serene glow emanating in the blackness.

The graveyard was full of shadows. The moonlight shining from the clear sky and it’s blanket of stars, bouncing the light off of the grey stones and darkened tombs. One girl stayed in the shadows as she walked slowly down the stone path that went parallel down each row of headstones. She was reading the names, each and everyone known to her from her nights spent whiled away within the walls of this place. There were people she knew, friends from school, those who had risen to attack her. Who had fallen at her feet to dust. She stopped, turning, and let herself drop slowly to her knees.

Slowly she reached her hand out and brushed a few pebbles from the patch of grass before her, tossing them away to the path. Then, just as slowly, she pulled up a small rose and placed it gently down on the fresh turf. She said nothing, just sat before the grave for a few silent minutes before rising slowly and walking away.

She had left a bag at the graveyard’s entrance, which she picked up as she passed. Taking one final look round she turned away from the direction she usually took – toward town – and set off in the other.

“I can catch a cargo ship to Asia, maybe trek to Nepal.”

“You know those newfangled flying machines are really much safer than they used to be,”

“I can’t fly, there’s no sure way to guard against the daylight. I don’t like this any more than you do, Buffy. But there’s no other choice,”

The End

Keeper of Willow’s giggle and tongue slip. And Of the creepily easy familiarity with which Willow handles the torture instruments.

“Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we’d know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank.

Without passion, we’d be truly dead.”

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