Where I Came From Book II – Among the Living       

Author: jenny haniver

Summary: AU in which Buffy wishes she had sired Angel.  Once she changes him, the universe splinters off and she forgets where she originally came from.  Book II is a stand-alone story that follows the events in Book I, posted here: www.foreverfandom.net/viewstory.php?sid=998.

Rating: NC-17

 

Warnings: everything you can imagine and worse.  Death and rape and misery and baby killing.  And of course, true love.

Word Count: 15,575

 

 

It's not necessary to read Book I to understand what happens in Book II.  Additional notes at the end.

 

                        Where I Came From Book II – Among the Living

 

                                          Part 9 Welcome to the Hellmouth

 

                                                                     Dawn

 

I'm late for curfew.  Again.  Tonight really couldn't get worse. 

 

[Shimmy up tree.  Jump QUIETLY to the roof.]

 

Being a juvenile delinquent really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. 

 

[Open window.  Crawl through window without ripping dress-that-destroyed-my-allowance.]

 

At least mom isn’t up waiting for her little punkin belly.  Thank god for small favors…

 

Not that I'm really trusting my slayer hearing right now.  Given that I spent 20 minutes lip locked with a vamp who was supposed to be my date for the evening, mom could be up yodeling for all I know.  Slayer senses are clearly not all they're cracked up to be.

 

It's sad really, I was so nervous until he attacked me.  Stakings and beheadings, no problem.  kissing a boy, practically apocalyptic.

 

It was my first kiss.  And it was good too, until the whole attacking thing.  Does this mean I'm scarred for life?  At least if I am scarred for life, it won’t be for too long. 

 

[Shit.  Weapons trunk NOT choosing the best time to slam itself shut.  Right.  That's me, diving under the covers without brushing teeth in case the noise wakes mom].

 

At least I can count on those delightful slayer dreams to keep me company.  Hah.

 

                                                          -----------------------------------

 

Sixth period is the worst.  For one I have to report to Giles instead of goofing off in study hall with Willow and Xander—who is starting to look good now that my chances with Justin are clearly blown.  Staking your date isn’t the best way to get asked out again.  Boys are dumb like that.

 

If I’m lucky, Willow and Xander might have managed to sneak off to the library to keep me distracted while Giles asks one mind numbingly dull question after another.

 

No such luck.

 

The library is as quiet as a tomb.  But obviously with more books. 

 

After his preliminary questions about my date, how classes are going, and my stylish new blunt cut, Giles…

 

“Dawn?”

 

“What?” 

 

Oh. 

 

I wake up from the fantasy in time to hear him ask about the vamps I staked on patrol last night. 

 

“Um, well, it was sort of quiet last night.”

 

Because I had a date and I didn’t so much patrol as play tonsil hockey with the undead…

 

“I see.”

 

That says everything. 

 

He’s deeply disappointed in me and I’ll have to kill some big ugly demon thingy before he feels better about his mentoring abilities.  I sigh, wondering for the billionth time whether it’s too late to trade this gig in for an after school job at the mall.  Of course, that might be difficult on account of the shoplifting phase I went through in middle school.  Still, anything beats this.

 

Giles is wearing the annoyed expression on his face that he usually sports when we spend more than 5 minutes in the same room together.  I actively cultivate that look, because I know it means less training, and less training means more shopping for Dawnie.

 

It’s a burden to be this diabolically clever.  And if all else fails and he insists on training, I can always blast Cher until he accepts defeat.  For some reason Cher is like holy water to Giles.  I think just the sound of her voice burns his ears.

 

“Sooo, we Bronzin it tonight Dawnie or are you out fighting the forces of darkness?” 

 

Xander is quick to detect my liberation from Giles, appearing almost the instant I make it out of the library from our aborted *training session*.  I’m good.

 

Cibbo Matto’s playing, so it’s not like I’m going to miss that.  And the nice thing about vampires?  There’s always more of them out there.

 

Willow offers to pick me up, and that sort of surprises me.  Not that she isn’t nice and all, but I get the feeling that she’s more in Giles’ camp than in mine.  She actually likes the library, for one thing, and I think the whole fighting evil thing seems romantic to her.  Obviously she’s never had a real social life, so she doesn’t know what she’s missing.  But still, it’s not like I’m going to be driving anytime soon, so of course I say yes.

 

If I even live long enough to see 17—which doesn’t seem likely—I first have to pass the test, then convince my mother that driving is really a safe and acceptable mode of transportation, which could only sound easy if you don’t know my mom.

 

                                                                     Willow

 

So far the plan is going great.  I’m at the Bronze with Dawn, and I don’t even think Dawn suspects my covert motives in picking her up.  Girl bonding!  Right.  No secret plans here!

 

I gulp down a sip of coke and face her with an expression I hope doesn’t look as guilty as it feels. 

 

Caffeine bad.  Why didn’t I think to bring tranquilizers or at least stick to water for the night?  Bad Willow.  I need to calm myself.

 

She’s shooting me an expression that’s just one notch less bored than her standard Giles-face—the apathetic and slightly dismissive look she gives him…pretty much all the time.

 

Fine.  I’m over it. 

 

I’m a traitor to my generation and I’m okay with that.  I think Giles is right.  Something bad is coming and we have to be ready for it.  I spare a quick glance at my outfit because Dawn is eying me like I have spinach dribbling down my face. 

 

I’m wearing stripes. 

 

But stripes are in!  Aren't they? 

 

I stifle the despair that’s threatening to overwhelm me.  The fate of the world could depend on my accessorizing.  Why didn’t I go shopping beforehand?

 

“Do you want to dance?”

 

I look up in time to see Owen help Dawn out of her chair, and I admit that I feel embarrassingly relieved. 

 

Stupid Giles. 

 

Like Dawn is going to become über slayer and crack open the books because of me.  Great plan…

 

With nothing to do, and nobody to brainwash, I scan the crowd for Xander, or ... well, pretty much for Xander.  I don’t see him, but that’s typical.  He always fumbles around for hours doing nothing and shows up late enough that I’m ready to go home by the time I see him.  It’s a talent, really—I’ve seen him at work.  We were late to seder with my family one year, because I stupidly offered to pick him up.  He spent an entire hour looking for a shirt that was in the laundry.  Needless to say, he was supposed to be ready when I got there. 

 

The crowd is thick right now.  Not a good time to get a drink.  Of soda or possibly water.  Not alcohol.

 

I'm finalizing my plan of action, debating my next move..  And that's when I see the blonde girl standing in the corner.  She's clearly our age, but she's not dressed like she's still in high school.  Everything about her  is too sophisticated.

 

I don’t know her.  She doesn’t go to our school.  And I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve met her before, but after staring at her for long enough to feel rude, I’m pretty sure that I haven’t. 

 

I turn back to the table and stare at my empty glass to distract myself. 

 

Sitting alone in a club doesn’t exactly help with the social awkwardness.  If people are sitting with you, even if they think you’re a book nerd, strangers don’t know for sure that you are miserably uncool.  Sitting alone with an empty drink is like wearing a brand on your forehead that announces it.

 

When I look up again, the blonde girl is gone.

 

                                                                     Dawn

 

Dawn brainwashing plan take three.  

 

First Giles spouts all this junk about me being the chosen one; then he finally gets the message that I'm not interested, so he lays off for awhile.  Then he sends Willow to try to guilt me into loving the demon world.  Or hating it.  Killing it. 

 

Whatever. 

 

It’s not like I have fluffy bunny feelings for bad guys.  I definitely stake vamps when I see them.  I patrol, okay?  I hunt the beasties.  It’s just that I don’t want to get way extracurricular with it.  I want to have a normal life.  I don’t want to get grounded until I’m 110.  I want to have a boyfriend. 

 

I don’t want to die.

 

So the Willow maneuver is a no go.  I see her coming from a mile away, and I dance with Owen until she looks like she's falling asleep in her coke.  Then I wander back and manage to look interested when I ask her if she has something she wants to say.  She manages to mumble something about sacred duty before her eyes start to close involuntarily and she offers me a ride home.  

 

Score one for Dawnie.

 

So now, stage three, we’re having “group patrol,” which is either a way to get me excited (!) about patrolling by showing me that others (losers) in my peer group like to fight demons.  Or it’s Giles’ way of making sure I actually go on patrol in the first place.  I’m insulted.  I patrol at least 4 times a week—it’s better than buns of steel for your figure. 

 

Who am I kidding? 

 

This is so boring. 

 

Until the sound of fighting hits me, and the slayer kicks in.

 

                                                                     Willow

 

I get that I’m doing penance for failing to sufficiently motivate Dawn during the aborted mission at the Bronze, but I feel just slightly ridiculous.  The walkie-talkies are so GI Joe.  And, did I mention I’m a pacifist? 

 

At least Giles brings some demon knowledge to the table—and he can provide constructive criticism of Dawn’s technique.  The only skill I bring to patrol is acting like bait. 

 

The other downside of the whole Giles patrolling idea is that Giles and Dawn patrols are a no go.  The little-slayer-that-could seems to get antsy whenever Giles corrects her, and he gets antsy, well, pretty much whenever she’s around.

 

So here we are patrolling with these stupid walkie-talkies that Dawn doesn’t use, and Xander just uses to startle me when he thinks I’m not paying attention.  And then finally (okay I didn’t just think that) some vamp action distracts me from all of my non-helping.  The vampires leap out in all their snarling glory from the woods around us with the usual battle cry (kill the slayer, etc).  Xander bats at one with his cross.  Giles is ready with the crossbow.  Dawn is pummeling with a vengeance—all trace of brat disappears when she’s fighting. 

 

I’m helping by trying to get out of Dawn’s way, and that's when I see her again.

 

The moon is full so I have a clear view of the blonde girl from the club fighting vampires in the clearing. She’s pummeling and kicking them as if they weren’t burly creatures of the night with super strength going for them, and the first thought that crosses my mind is—new slayer?  Dawn’s gonna love this.  Luckily Dawn's nowhere near the clearing—from the sound of it she’s still fighting the group in the woods.

 

But I’m getting distracted.  This is the part where I’m most helpful.  Right.  Creeping behind the mausoleum, I gear myself up, and hide. 

 

The fight continues around me.  The vamps are wearing suits, which is unusual.  But before I have time to digest that one and ponder what it might mean, the blonde girl turns to deliver a kick that launches a vamp in my direction.  She leaps through the air to stake him before he hits the ground and when she looks up, I  stare at her.  I’m just about to do something really clever (like talking) when she runs through the clearing and disappears past me into the woods. 

 

Typical. 

 

Doesn’t anybody just say hi, anymore?

 

                                                        Part 10  Cryptic Girl

 

                                                                     Buffy

 

It’s time to warn them.  Somebody has to. 

 

The slayer isn’t exactly what I expected.  She has friends, goes dancing, and only grudgingly patrols.  The watcher doesn’t get out much—he rarely joins her—and the boy is like a lost puppy that follows them because he doesn’t know what else to do. 

 

At least he knows enough to fight the good fight—I chide myself—knows enough to despise demons like you.

 

I tell myself that I’ve spent all this time watching because I need to learn about them, so I can figure out who to contact, what to say to them.  But the truth is I’m scared to face them.  People who will understand what I am, or at least understand the danger.

 

I shake these thoughts aside.  It’s no use putting it off any longer.  The danger is real.  The time of pre-ordained darkness approaches.  

 

And the girl sees me—the one with red hair who looks like the witches they burned in this country a few hundred years ago.

 

The club is less crowded tonight and she’s sitting by herself, as usual.  The boy won’t show up until later. 

 

The club’s interior reminds me briefly of the absinthe bars in London, or the speakeasy’s in New York.  It has the same smell of sweat and alcohol mingled with the primitive rhythm of the music—creating something luminous and surreal.  The children here are younger, but the darkness is closer to them on the Hellmouth.  It infects the way they carry themselves—like the desperate fervor of people who sought religion during the plagues.

 

I force myself to walk toward her, and as I approach I am swept up in the tide of the prophecy.

 

                                                                     Willow

 

“And that’s all she told you,” Giles prods again, “a very dark power is rising in Sunnydale?

 

I pause to consider—again—whether I might be forgetting something, but nothing springs to mind so I tell him, “that’s it.” 

 

Again. 

 

“Fascinating.  And she said her name was?”

 

“Buffy,” I supply helpfully.  “It doesn’t seem like a very demon hunter-y name…”

 

Giles is already digging through his books, and I sigh.  There’ll be no getting through to him for at least a few hours.  I swing my knapsack over my shoulder and head to class.

 

                                                                     Angel

 

I watch her as she makes her way quietly through the cemetery.  Her long blonde hair gleams in the moonlight.  Her skin is paler than the moon itself.

 

Her footsteps slow and she turns to face me for the first time in half a century.

 

 

                                                     London, December 3, 1952

 

The fog is overpowering.  Nothing like the innocuous swirls of mist that covered London like a blanket a hundred years ago.  This fog is sinister and slightly yellowish.  You can’t see the other side of the street.

 

The fog swallows her up when she walks away—makes her loss seem more permanent.  If I tried to follow her I wouldn’t be able to.   Less than a block away and she’s already long gone.

 

Later that week thousands die in the fog.  There are headlines in the newspapers, and the physicians are outraged.  The death toll makes me feel weary and numb.  It makes me wonder how many I've killed.  It doesn’t seem like it matters.  She’s gone.  And I am just a bloodsucking rodent.

 

                                                          -----------------------------------

 

 50 years later, on the mouth of hell, Buffy turns to face me again.

 

“I know you’re following me.  You might as well show yourself.”

 

                                                                     Buffy

 

                                              Sunnydale Rest, November 5, 1997

 

Angel looks good.  The understatement of the century—or two—but who’s counting?  He looks ragged around the edges.  His deep unfathomable eyes are weary.  But he looks like Angel.  He looks like home.

 

                                                     London, November 24, 1952

 

The room we are staying in is ancient and the furniture is old.  The wooden beams sag slightly under the weight of the centuries, and I feel no less careworn.  Angel is trying to hold me—trying to stop the pain—but watching the man I turned into a monster trying to comfort me is more than I can bear.  I lash out again and again.  The cruelty comes so naturally.  The words pour out of my mouth without conscious effort, and I wonder how much is the demon and how much is just me.

 

His face flinches at the mention of his family.  And watching him struggle to bear it—desperate to protect me from the pain I’m inflicting—just makes me angrier. 

 

Later he looks at me apologetically as he slips away to make a stray cat his supper.  As if my delicate sensibilities will be offended.  That's when I know for sure that I will have to leave him. 

 

                                              Sunnydale Rest, November 5, 1997

 

The call of his blood reminds me of what we once were.  The pull is powerful and sudden—I’m struck with a fierce longing for the nights we spent tangled in each other’s arms, bodies connected like some mythical beast.  Hunting together—the chase, stalking our terrified prey until it was time to corner them in a dark alley, trap them in a wine cellar, ambush them in an unused pantry or an old broom closet—the thrill of killing them so close to the safety of their homes, their families.  I clamp down on the images—bury them as deep inside me as I can and stare at him with hollow, haunted eyes. 

 

He moves quickly, closing the distance as if he is afraid I will run.  He’s pressed against me before I consciously decide to prove him wrong, enveloping me with his arms, drawing me into his embrace.

 

The graveyard feels like a sanctuary with its deathly stillness, and I fall into him—hard. 

 

His strong, gentle fingers stroke my hair and pull me closer.  My arms circle him of their own accord—remembering the soft skin at the nape of his neck, relearning the soft texture of his hair.   My lips part as he leans closer, yielding to his demands.  I’ve been alone too long, and so has he.  Our bodies fuse without conscious intention.  Desperate to become one. 

 

The stone wall of the mausoleum scrapes against my back, alerting me that my flimsy halter-top is gone.  Lowering his mouth to my breast, Angel surrounds my nipple with his mouth and sucks gently, caressing the sensitive nub with his tongue.  I’m gasping now.  Moaning.  I hear myself calling out as if I’m far away.  Angel’s fingers caress my body.  Relearning my navel, my hipbone—and finally—pushing aside the soft fabric to slide into my wet opening. 

 

                                                                     Angel

 

                                                              London, 1952

 

The words are running through my head over and over again.  There’s nothing I can do to stop them. 

 

I’m telling her for the thousandth time that it’s not her fault.  The demon made me what I am, but she denies it.

 

 “No.  Not the demon.  I did it!  I don’t know how it’s possible, but I knew it was wrong and I did it anyway.  I wasn’t truly a monster until I made you one!”

 

And in the deceptive calm at the eye of the storm I’m watching her leave me.  I let her go because I am ashamed to admit that I don’t regret it.  Because if she asked me to close my eyes again I wouldn’t hesitate.  And it’s better to lose her this way than to show her how much of a monster I truly am. 

 

                                                         Sunnydale, 1997

 

She feels like heaven.  Not the kind we learned about in church, but the real heaven.  Made of flesh and blood and love and solace.  Waves of relief and ecstasy flooding through me.  The smell of her fierce sweet blood, the taste of her lips on mine.  I know I haven’t seen her in half a century.  I know that the things we said still hang between us.  Some small part of me wonders if I should do this, be close to her again, without banishing those demons—without finding out if she plans to stay. 

 

But the feel of her opening up beneath me, sliding my fingers inside her and making her moan.  I can’t walk away from her.  I never wanted to leave her.  I’m not that strong. 

 

Reluctantly I remove my fingers, and then push her tight slacks down to her ankles.

 

Our eyes meet, conveying the shared hunger.  She closes her eyes and her mouth opens slightly.  Her hands fumble for my trousers—impatiently tearing at the clasp—and pull them down.

 

Our eyes meet again, solemn this time, as if I have entered a temple and the smell of incense is an offering to the gods, not the cologne splashed behind her ears, or the smell of her hair. 

 

I spread her open and plunge inside—like a drowning man swimming for the surface—like Adam wrestling with the serpent.  Her grip is tighter than a vice and I thrust harder, burying myself deep in her core.  I don’t want her to leave me again, but I know that if I push hard enough, go deep enough inside her, she’ll let me stay. 

 

Her blood calls to me and I’m afraid to drink, afraid to remind her of my demon—and hers.  I thrust harder instead.  Focus on touching every part of her, inflaming every nerve.  I bury my face in her shoulder and suck hard on deceptively soft skin as if it will relieve the craving.  I can smell her blood where the stone is scraping her back.  And her wordless cries urge me deeper.  Faster.  Harder.  More. 

 

It’s not enough.  it’s never enough.  The pressure builds and I explode inside her.  Barely aware that she is spasming beneath me… She is all around me…inside me…in my blood.

 

The cold stars stare down at us as I wait for her to recover.

 

 

 

                                               Part 11 Out of the Shadows

 

                                                                     Buffy

 

The apartment is dimly lit, but my predator eyes take in the sculptures in glass cases, the paintings, and a sketchbook lying on and old-fashioned writing desk, covered with dust as I follow him through the doorway. 

 

Tucked into a corner, his bed is covered with plain cotton sheets—primitive for him—and a blood red brocade blanket.

 

The apartment looks comfortable—a cross between a museum and a cave.

 

A sigh escapes me before I can stop it.  He’s obviously been in Sunnydale for awhile...watching me? 

 

Angel turns to me awkwardly.  “Can I get you anything…” he falters for a fraction of a second…“to drink?”

 

I shake my head no and sit down on the only armchair in the apartment.  Angel sits on the bed facing me. 

 

What I want is to climb into his arms again and kiss him—slowly, reverently this time.  I forced the thought out of my head, asking instead, “what do you know about what’s happening here?”

 

He studies me,  as if he's trying to decide the best way to answer.  I wonder if we are strangers, if we can claim that luxury

 

“It’s the Hellmouth,” he says simply, as if that explains everything.

 

Maybe it does.

 

                                                                     Angel

 

“There’s noise in the underground,”  she continues, “the seers have seen visions of a dark power rising.”

 

She pauses, then adds, “ no one knows what it is.  the demon crowd is divided between flocking toward the conflagration and running in the opposite direction with their tails between their legs.”

 

I hear her, and part of me registers that what she’s saying is important, but another part of me can’t seem to focus on anything but her.  The fact that she’s finally here.  The question forms itself unbidden, and before I can stop myself, I’ve asked her where she’s staying.

 

She nods toward the floor and it takes me a moment to realize. 

 

Down equals sewer tunnels.  And then, she smells so clean.

 

As if she can read my mind, she smiles at me…  For the first time in half a century.  For the first time since I laid eyes on her in the cemetery, and she called me out of the shadows. 

 

Still smiling, she chides, “you once told me you would love me if I was covered in slime”

 

I remember.

 

She was covered in blood.  Crying because she had killed a lamb. 

 

It was almost daybreak and I was petrified; I couldn’t convince her to get inside.  I told her that I would love her for eternity—that I would never turn away from her in fear.  I told her I would love her if she were drowning in a river of blood, if she were covered in boils or dripping with slime.

 

I would have promised anything to get her inside… But it was true just the same.

 

I force myself back to the present and wait for her to continue; she doesn’t. 

 

She looks so tired.  Worn.

 

Before I can stop myself or think better of it, I ask her to stay. 

 

“I even have a shower,” I tell her, as if that will convince her. 

 

She raises her eyebrow slightly as if to say she can lick her own paws clean. 

 

                                                                    Buffy

 

It’s hard to be here.  Angel is hovering as if I plan to flee as soon as he turns his back.  But I’m too tired to try to escape the past, too tired to run away.  His bed looks mother’s milk and his deep brown eyes are soft and warm.  And suddenly it’s easy.

 

I nod mutely when he turns down the sheets and offers me his bed. 

 

He claims the armchair I sat in just a few minutes ago.  And it takes me a moment to realize he’s planning to sleep there. 

 

                                                                     Angel

 

She looks at me thoughtfully as I relax into the ancient armchair.  I allow the pang of separation to wash over me--sharper because she is so close to me, because I can smell her sweat on my skin.

 

Her eyes drift closed and I resign myself to the distance.  And then through the darkness she whispers, “come to bed with me,” and I feel like I've come home.

 

                                                          -----------------------------------

 

The next night I wake up with my arms around her.  as if even asleep I was afraid to let her go.    I’m still afraid when I wake--afraid to open my eyes and see the empty place where she isn’t sleeping, to find that the fingers stroking my face so tenderly aren’t real.

 

I finally open them, and she is gazing at me with such tenderness that I break open.  Her eyes close for the briefest instant, and sudden warmth floods rushes through my gut.  then she bends down to kiss me and everything stops but her.

 

 

                                                          -----------------------------------

 

Later, we hunt together for the first time in 50 years. 

 

Buffy is silent and deadly.

 

She doesn’t taunt her prey anymore, even though they’re demons.  She lost that easy, predatory playfulness when she regained her soul.

 

The influx of demons around the hellmouth is alarming, now that I am watching for the signs instead of watching her. 

 

After we hunt, I hold her in my arms.

 

                                                          -----------------------------------

 

Days pass and she doesn’t leave my side.  We hunt and hold each other afterwards.  Press our bodies together in the darkness.  Surrender to the desperate pull between us. 

 

I feel alive again, and afraid.

 

                                                                     Dawn

 

I set my diet coke on the table and stare at Willow meaningfully.  Willow has the grace to look slightly ashamed.

 

“Traitor!” I pronounce again, “selling out your peer group for a stuffed shirt with an accent too thick to even understand!” 

 

I raise her eyebrows menacingly (hours of practice in study hall have honed this skill) and Willow explains again.

 

And then it's time for the rebuttal.

 

“Fate of the earth not an issue—witness me here…on assignment.  Completely focused on the task at hand.”

 

Willow looks skeptical, so I give her my most eloquent shrug, “what?  Lots of vampires hang out at the bronze.  It’s like their favorite snack spot.”

 

Willow gives me her beaten puppy expression--the one she thought of as her resolve face,--I haven't had the heart to tell her it only works because she looks so pathetic.

 

“Fine.  We go patrolling.” It's not a concession, just tactical retreat, ”but don’t you think we should wait a little longer…” 

 

I look meaningfully at my unfinished coke, and not at the dance floor where Cordelia is practically mating with Owen.  Clearly I have a tell, because Willow is not buying my last ditch effort to avoid.

 

                                                          -----------------------------------

 

The woods are dark and quiet.  Too quiet.  Of course, that was before Willow started shoveling down potato chips as if she were watching the movie of the week.  Cue eye rolling.  For someone who just put so much effort into making sure I patrolled, Willow is doing a great job of making sure no vamps will ever show.  Maybe they could scare up some deaf vampires, but, did they even have deaf vamps?  I mean, what if you were deaf when they turned you, would you get your hearing back?

 

That chain of thought is totally disrupted by the confused fledgling running straight at me.  that doesn't happen everyday.  Usually they run in the opposite direction.  Interesting.

 

“No death threats?” It's no fun without the taunting.,  And usually they're so…spirited...in their desire to kill the slayer.  “it’s enough to make a girl feel taken for granted.”

 

The vamp lunges at her halfheartedly, clearly more interested in escape than banter, so I do the slayer thing and stake it. 

 

God.  Willow.  is.  still.  crunching. 

 

After hissing at her to be quiet, I head in the direction the fledgling ran from. 

 

I can hear Willow following – slightly more quietly, thank god. 

 

“I know you’re there,” I bluff confidently, “and I’m not in the mood for games.  Show yourselves.”

 

                                                                     Willow

 

I look around, but the woods are empty—at least to me.  Then they're not.  The mysterious blonde girl from the club and the vampire slaying – Buffy – the one who had warned her about the dark power rising appears as silently as a ghost with tall dark and hottie in tow.

 

                                                                     Dawn

 

“Who are these people again?” I ask for the second and slightly less patient time.

 

Willow sputters. 

 

“She’s the one I told you and Giles about…the one who’s been giving us cryptic warnings,”

 

I shoot Willow a look that (hopefully) says she could be a whole lot more helpful if she set her mind to it.

 

“What about him?”

 

“I don’t know,” Willow falters, “I haven’t seen him before.”

 

“But they have information,”  This at least seems to be clear, but I nod to Willow for confirmation.

 

“Yeah.  I mean yes.  I think so.”

 

“Fine.  I say we bring them to Giles.  He can sort out what else they might know.”

 

Hopefully the finality of this decision is clear.

 

Passing on messages from cryptic weirdos is not my gig, and no force in hell could make me endure the hours of questioning Willow puts up with when Giles gets excited about said cryptic-ness.  Better not to expose myself to information that could lead to said interrogation.

 

Willow opens her mouth to protest, but stops before she makes it past a sputter.  Smart girl.  She succeeded in round one—getting me to patrol—but clearly she can tell there will be no second victory tonight.

 

                                                                     Giles

 

Back at the library, Giles ponders the situation. 

 

One of the most vicious vampires in recent history appears in Sunnydale, contacts a friend of the slayer, and proceeds to warn them of imminent danger.  However often he cleans his glasses, it fails to make sense. 

 

Perhaps the gesture was meant to intimidate, but then why had she approached Willow?   The slayer was the obvious candidate for intimidation tactics. 

 

Could it be a trap of some sort?

 

The sound of footsteps approaching the library cuts off the morbid direction his thoughts are taking.   The sound of unhurried footsteps means that his slayer has returned safe from another evening of patrolling, perhaps with new information.  They’ll soon find out how much they have to fear.

                                                        Part 12 Small Talk

 

                                                                     Xander

 

The doors swing open, and Xander looks up from the incredibly dull book he’s reading—the diary of some incredibly British watcher guy who apparently got killed by the same vampires they’re studying up on.  So far, the diary has been painfully obsessed with the watcher’s horticultural interests.   No stalking.  No demons.  Just rows and rows of the most boring pea gardens possible.  No pictures even. 

 

The sound of the doors opening gives him a faint glimmer of hope.  Maybe Willow has come with doughnuts. 

 

                                                                      Giles

 

Giles looks up from his notes and takes in the entourage.  The vampire he has been studying and her consort—accompanied by willow, who is carrying a ludicrously oversized bag of potato chips, and dawn who is wearing her bored but dutiful slayer face.

 

                                                                     Buffy

 

“Willow tells me that you warned her of a dark power about to rise in Sunnydale,” the watcher—Rupert Giles—cuts to the chaise.

 

I nod mutely in assent.

 

“And these warnings come from?” …he lets the question hang in the air.

 

“The underground.”

 

“The underground?” the boy—Xander—questioningly echoes.

 

“The creatures that live underground” I explain to them, still staring at the watcher.

 

“Indeed.”

 

Giles clears his throat and reaches for one of the leather bound volumes lying on the heavy oak table.

 

“Perhaps you could help to clarify another matter?

 

I brace myself for the inevitable, and wait for him to continue.

 

                                                                      Giles

 

Giles looks up from his books and surveys the pair warily.

 

The dark haired man at her side—Angelus, presumably--isn’t looking at Giles directly.  His arm is resting loosely on Buffy’s (also referred to as Grainne) waist and he gives the impression of being engrossed in some inner conversation rather than the dialogue between Giles and his sire.

 

Giles steels himself as he considers the contents of his notes and slowly begin to read to them

 

                                                          -----------------------------------

 

“Grainne, also referred to as Buffy, and her consort Angelus,” Giles looks up at this point, “the one with the angelic face…”  The creature (Buffy, Grainne) grips her paramour harder as Giles continues, inexorably. “After leaving Ireland the vampires ravage Europe for over a hundred years.  Then, at the turn of the century, all records of their activities cease.”  

 

“I’m just curious, how does a vampire ravaging Europe 200 years ago come to have a name like Buffy?”  Xander interjects. 

 

Giles shoot him a don’t-interrupt-when-we’re-discussing-the-apocalypse expression, and Xander slouches into his chair with the sheepish defiance of a seasoned heckler.

 

Buffy looks at Giles as she answers Xander’s question, “I was Buffy before I became Grainne, but I don’t know where that name…” she pauses infinitesimally, “...where I came from.” 

 

Angel presses his hand more firmly into the small of her back and looks at Giles for the first time, “she doesn’t remember.”

 

Giles looks at them expectantly but they don’t elaborate.  Apparently interested in the name game despite himself, he continues, “and Grainne?” 

 

Buffy opens her mouth to speak, then falters almost imperceptibly. 

 

Angel, who only has eyes for Buffy now, recites seamlessly, “Grainne was named for the legendary pirate queen--fierce and brave—she sailed the coast of Ireland striking fear into the hearts of wicked men.”

 

Giles considers this for a moment before removing a sheet of old parchment from the leather bound book in his hands.

 

                                                                      Angel

 

The paper is yellow, and the charcoal faded—adding a muted impression to the original rendering. 

 

I remember the stark contrast of the black, white and grey when it was new.  The way her beauty and brutality came to life under my earnest gaze.  The charcoal racing across the parchment under my eager fingers. 

 

The image is unmistakable.  My fierce and beautiful lover stares at me from centuries past cradling a dead man barely older than a boy on her lap with no remorse.  His sightless eyes stare into the distance, but hers lock directly on mine.

 

I remember the thrill of drawing her—watching her inflict pain and capturing it in these tokens of affection—waiting for my turn, and burning, burning with desire to feed her flames. 

 

After I sketched her, after the lifeless body was thrown to the floor.  I’d put away the charcoal and paper slowly, meticulously.  and she would watch me from the bed with growing desire, waiting for me to come to her. 

 

I’d take her slowly, or brutally, tasting the blood on her lips.  Using my body to feed the flames—overpowering even the smell of blood saturating the sheets.

 

                                                                      Giles

 

“And they say romance is dead,” Xander offers with disgust,  “I guess nothing says I love you like a gory dead guy.”

 

Giles waits for their reaction.

 

Angel looks haunted.  Standing next to him, Buffy is pale and silent, but Giles can’t read her expression.

 

“We are demons.”

 

It’s Angel who finally speaks. 

 

His hand moves up to rest on Buffy’s shoulder, and he continues,  “we hunted and killed without remorse.  There are hundreds drawings like this one, maybe more.”

 

He pauses to let Giles absorb what he is saying, before adding,

 

“We don’t live that way anymore.”

 

Giles studies Buffy and Angel thoughtfully, “what changed?”

 

Buffy answers him this time, “The Romani…” she takes in the blank looks of the children, “…gypsies.  We hunted a favorite among their tribe.  And they restored our souls…as a punishment for our crimes.”

 

                                                                     Willow

 

The bronze is packed, and we’re sitting at the table we were lucky enough find, sipping cokes and trying to climb out of the heavy, awkward silence.

 

Dawn has been acting strangely subdued since the night at the library.  And I can’t help feeling like I maybe I should’ve argued when she decided to bring Buffy and Angel back to Giles.  But it’s not all bad, right?  They want to fight the good fight…

 

The weirdest part is seeing Xander like this.  Xander who always bounces back to his regular Xander self after every onslaught.  It’s nice.  It’s part of why you can count on him even though he has a tendency to show up hours late.  He’s the guy who always recovers first with a joke or a barb or the snoopy dance.

 

But tonight, every night since then…he’s been different.

 

I haven’t seen him like this since Jesse died.  And tried to take us with him.  

 

He’s wearing that same bitter face now—staring at Buffy and Angel while they dance as if they were committing torture or mayhem.

 

They’re dancing in that gliding sort of way that makes it seem like gravity isn’t really working on them.

 

Maybe he’s right to distrust them.  I just wish he would act like himself again. 

 

“Pretty weird, huh?”  I’m saying, “vampires with souls.  Who help us.”

 

He nods grimly as if he doesn’t even hear what I’m saying, and the wary expression doesn’t leave his face when he finally turns away from them.

                                                           Part 13 Crashers

 

                                                                  Cordelia

 

This is a delicate mission – crucial to the success of today's battle.  I check the hallway surreptitiously—looking both ways before racing from the locker room to the girls’ bathroom on the first floor.  Nobody every uses this one—it was perfect for what I need.

 

                                                                      Spike

 

From the shadows in the hallway, Spike watches her and licks his lips.

 

                                                                     Dawn

 

I race down the hall – past the signs for cheerleading tryouts – and duck into the first floor girls’ room.  No one ever uses this bathroom— which makes it a great place to change into my cheerleading outfit without having to explain why I am covered with bruises from fighting a Fy’arl demon. 

 

I can just picture it.  

 

Hi!  I’m Dawn! and I’m here to represent all the battered women of cheerleading! 

 

The thought dies when the door swings open to reveal Cordelia Chase popping a pimple the size of a black eye and wearing the expression you'd expect if someone just barfed on her prada shoes.

 

                                                                   Cordelia

 

I’m squeezing the last of the pus from my freakishly proportioned crater sized zit, when dawn summers, queen of the freaks, practically runs over me.

 

Could she be any clumsier?

 

I’m distracted for a minute lamenting the fact that a girl can’t lance a pimple in private anymore, when I notice the cheerleading outfit she has stuffed in a plastic bag from TJ max.

 

As if!  Like Dawn Summers has a chance in hell of getting on my cheerleading squad! 

 

I’m doing her a favor when I tell her to give up and go home—I’m just trying to spare her the pain of being humiliated in front of everyone.

 

But does the freaksome one listen to me?  of course not…miss extreme birth defect actually has the nerve to trip over me, and then put on her outfit anyway.  As if her extreme oafishness will ever find its way onto my cheerleading squad.  Please!

 

                                                                      Spike

 

Spike watches as the two girls leave the bathroom, smiles thoughtfully and reaches for a another cigarette.

 

                                                                      Buffy

 

We're walking slowly now.  The doors to the school are ominously close.

 

“Are you sure you want to do this?”  Angel is asking.  As if we have a choice. 

 

Still, I’m grateful that he cares more about me than about doing the right thing.  That he would slink off into the darkness with me like a coward if I asked him.  It makes it harder sometimes.  Knowing that we could both give in so easily.  On the other hand, it's better knowing where home is.  I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it would be if we fought on different sides.  If we had conflicting loyalties.

 

“We have to do this.”

 

I say it as much for myself as for him.

 

Giles asked us to meet with them, to join them in the fight against darkness.  Against all instinct and training, he allowed himself to trust us, or at least to give us a chance. 

 

The whole fraternizing with humans thing is new to me (to us), but even so, we know it can’t work without trust.  So here we are, at the high school, of all places.  Trudging through the hallways toward the library, to meet with a watcher and a group of kids who spend their free time averting apocalypses.

 

Angel tenses beside me, and I press my fingers against his in a silent question, “what is it?”

 

He cocks his head slightly and then I hear it too.  The sound of some kind of fight in the building.

 

War-like screams echo through the concrete slab hallways as we race to the source of the disturbance.  We throw open a pair of heavy, fireproof doors and we’re greeted with the last thing either of us imagined. 

 

Cheerleading tryouts. 

 

Through the open doors to the gym, we watch the haphazard group of young girls in spandex executing sloppy kicks and jumps as they scream primitive battle cries at the top of their lungs.

 

I quirk an amused look at Angel, and squeeze his hand again. 

 

“Good thing you were here to save the tryouts,” I smirk. 

 

He looks at me and his eyes flash briefly with amusement as he counters that some of them look like they could use some rescuing before they hurt themselves.  Gazing at the awkward teenagers trying to build a body pyramid, I'm not inclined to disagree.

 

Suddenly Angel tenses against me.  Again.  And I grimace, “what’s wrong, is football practice in danger now too?”

 

The short hairs on the back of his neck prickle, and I barely have time to wonder whether it is fear or dislike, before he harshly mutters, “Spike!”

 

                                                          -----------------------------------

 

Spike appears in the dimly lit hall of the high school like an aberration—a tangible reminder of our  cursed past. 

 

“One hundred years and two souls later and still mummy’s lapdog,” Spike drawls

 

It’s lucky for us he doesn’t have Angel’s way with words.  We’re not really in a place where we hate reminders of our togetherness, if you know what I’m saying…  Still, Spike's presence here and now is...unsettling.

 

The past floods back to me.

 

                                                              London, 1880

 

The rain is lighter than it was in the early evening.  Finally dry enough to walk the streets without ruining my intricately coiffed curls.  Angel smiles as we leave our drinking companion to … sleep it off. 

 

Dru is wandering the streets like a deranged orphan when we find her.  Her hair is dripping wet, and she is raving about stars and effulgence.  That and burning fish swimming around in someone’s head.  She’s seen something.  That much is obvious.  Her eyes are lit with that far away look, and her pallor suggests she has been too enthralled in her visions to hunt.

 

The object of her interest materializes in a dirty gutter in Cheapside.  His blonde unruly mop is filthy and his clothes are spattered with mud.  It’s impossible to tell whether he lives in the gutter or just passed out there on the way home.  He’s also raving about effulgence. 

 

Drusilla hones in on him with her enormous saucer-like eyes.  Like cat dragging home her kill.

 

She hums softly in excitement and curls herself around Angel, purring.  “Can I keep him, daddy?” Her fingers tiptoe up his chest and she adds musically, “can I bring him home?”

 

Angel picks the boy up by the scruff of the neck and looks him over, then he slides a finger across Dru's face and smiles.

 

                                                                      Angel

 

“He’s a bit scruffy,” Graínne sniffs with amusement.  I match the levity in her eyes with an indulgent look of my own.

 

Drusilla has always liked to play with strays, but she’s never asked to keep one before.

 

I shrug my shoulders in assent and she approaches him.  Her eyes filled with clarity and looking straight into his. 

 

“Do you want to know effulgence, my pet?” she asks him, brushing a finger across his cheek, “do you?”

 

He’s practically passed out already from drink, but he reaches for her with strength born of desperation.  Either she’s struck some kind of chord with him, or he’s too drunk to stand without assistance.

 

                                                                      Drusilla

 

All the stars are smiling at me as I lean in.  Skin as soft as pastry.  Blood just as sweet.  My rebellious boy has been naughty and now he will not wake up. 

 

I am hungry, for I have been sent to bed without dinner. 

 

Now, no one shall have any sweets.

 

                                                                      Buffy

 

Dru bites into him and drains him.  But it's Angel that drags him back to the house before daybreak and throws his body in the corner to die.  Angel that slits his wrists and makes the boy drink.

 

                                                          -----------------------------------

 

William is pounding into me, his eyes searching desperately for Dru.  But she is having a tea party with her dolls and won’t try to rescue him.

 

Angel thrusts into him, and the force pushes William deeper inside me. 

 

“It hurts, doesn’t it?”  I coo maliciously and he looks at me with abject hatred. 

 

Angel grips the back of his neck and pulls him up.  Twisted at an impossible angle, Will continues to ram into me with uneven thrusts, as Angel plunges into his neck and drinks.  The sight sends a shiver through me, and my sudden wetness makes his movements more erratic. 

 

“Harder,” I demand with a smile.  And Angel obliges me, pounding furiously into our newest family member, who slams into me so hard his bones shake.

 

William gazes longingly at my neck, but by now the whelp knows better.  The smell of blood and anguish is exquisite, and I fall over the edge as waves upon waves of pleasure overtake me. 

 

I have to admit that Dru chose well. 

 

Dru drifts into the room afterwards.  She runs her fingers along his backside—tracing the lash marks to the blood that wells up between his bruised cheeks.  She licks his blood from her fingers crooning,

 

“Mummy taught my boy a lesson, didn’t she?  Now the disobedient boy must ask permission before he takes any sweets.”

                                                          Part 14 Hit and Run

 

                                                                     Angel

 

“So I‘m curious,” Spike continues, “How does the souled set get their rocks off in little Sunnyhell?  Terrorizing kitten communities are we?  Scourge of the rat kingdom?”

 

He pauses to take a drag from his cigarette, “must say, I’d find it awfully dull without a spot of torture.”

 

Buffy smiles slowly, her white teeth gleaming in the dark hallway. 

 

                                                                     Buffy

 

Spike hasn't learn much about psychological cruelty if he thinks that will get to me.  I’ve had a hundred years to deal with who – what-- I am, to try to make amends.  The guilt is sometimes overwhelming, but it’s not so close to the surface that I'll bleed for his cheap barbs.

 

“Do you miss being beaten, boy?” I taunt him.  He blanches slightly, and I feel my demon howl with approval.  “I could bend you over my knee right now if you need a reminder.”

 

I watch the maelstrom of emotions cross his face as the threat lingers between us.  Fear…confusion…pain…anger.  Anger prevails and he belts out his challenge with desperate bravado,

 

“I’d like to see you try!”

 

It lacks the wit he's able to achieve when he’s unruffled.  I flash another predatory grin and take a deliberate step closer.

 

I miss this.  Watching my prey squirm. 

 

Mostly I just kill them now.  Demons don't offer the same satisfaction, and I try so hard not to enjoy it.  But Spike is different; he deserves more…individualized...attention.

 

Focused on Spike, I’m not as attuned to my surroundings as I should be.  From behind us, the watcher yells a cry of warning—alerting me to his presence.  As I turn to see him staring at me, unnerved, Angel lets out a low, warning growl. 

 

I whip my head back in time to see Spike grab a tall brown-haired cheerleader as she exits the gymnasium.  The heavy doors fall shut behind her, muffling the din of blaring music and screaming teenagers. 

 

The girl struggles in his arms—screaming loudly enough to wake the dead. 

 

The rules have changed in an instant, and Spike knows it.  The smirk has returned to his face, and his voice is dripping with cockiness.

 

“Sorry to leave the party early.  I hate to eat and run…”

 

He scrapes his fangs against the girl’s throat and abruptly shoves her at us before running in the opposite direction. 

 

I hesitate long enough to see Angel catch the girl before I chase after him.

 

                                                          -----------------------------------

 

When I meet them at the library, the cheerleader is sitting on a table with an ice pack pressed to her neck.  Xander is reassuring her.  Jenny, looking remarkably non-plussed, is lending a hand.

 

Giles still looks unnerved. 

 

I don't blame him.  Knowing that someone is a demon with a sadistic past is different than watching them light up at the prospect of torturing someone.

 

Willow, looking oblivious to the tension, is busy researching something—presumably Spike—

in what looks like a watcher's diary.  Other ancient tomes are scattered across the table between the children.

 

I didn’t catch up to Spike.  Angel, at least, doesn't need to ask why.  Spike's running skills are legendary, and he knows better than to engage in a direct fight with one of us. 

 

                                                                     Cordelia

 

It takes me a took a minute to appreciate my situation…

 

On the one hand, I wasn’t killed by the crazy man with the gnarly face.  That’s definitely a pro.  I also haven’t bled on my uniform.  Another plus.

 

Add one more thing to the good list.  Tall dark and hottie who saved me lurking in the corner…

 

Hel~lo salty goodness!

 

On the other hand, I’m holed up with the freak squad of Sunnydale High School, headed up by the ultimate lameness of Xander Harris, and his trusty dweeb sidekick, Willow Rosenberg.

 

On top of that, we’re in the library.  With teachers, for christ's sake.

 

All that’s missing to perfect the nightmare is Dawn Summers stepping or otherwise tripping all over me in another misguided attempt to belong in the world of anything remotely cool.

 

Of course, that's when the doors open and Dawn walks in.

 

Great. 

 

Just perfect.  Maybe god could also send a flood to wash away my house and lightning to smite down the football team while he’s at it. 

 

Why am I being punished?

 

                                                                     Dawn

 

When I walk into the library the gang’s all here. 

 

And then some…

 

“What is SHE doing here?!”

 

I don’t even realize I’ve spoken the words out loud until Giles informs me, in high British, that she was attacked by a vampire outside the school gymnasium. 

 

Good!

 

I mean bad.  I mean, obviously the vamps had no taste.

 

I didn’t just think that. 

 

Fine.

 

I did.

 

But it’s CORDELIA.  it’s not like she’d be more evil as a creature of the night. 

 

Still, and believe me, I have to force myself to do it, I ask if she’s okay.

 

Yes.  Good.  On to more important things. 

 

I see the vamp contingency is here—lurking in the shadows as usual.  Like they think we won’t notice them if they just blend into the woodwork.  It’s a little bit creepy, and I’m seriously thinking about buying them some bells. 

 

Willow’s reading. 

 

Typical. 

 

And it looks like Giles is heading to the stacks for more books.  Cause clearly there aren’t enough on the table already…

 

Jenny, as usual, has taken it upon herself to act like the token grown up. 

 

And I say that with a deliberate eye roll. 

 

Here is my Jenny rant. 

 

She comes in to help us as long as there isn’t something better to do, like a football game, and then she acts like she’s in charge and we have to listen to her because she’s old. 

 

Whatever. 

 

Willow keeps telling me to be nice, because Giles likes her, and he deserves to have a social life. 

 

Yeah right. 

 

Like I would deliberately do something to encourage him to grope her in the library where I might walk in on them.  I feel the urge to gauge my eyes out just thinking about it.

 

But the thing that bugs me most is watching Xander drool on Cordelia -- as if she’s a real girl who might like him, instead of a shallow vicious bitch-monster who would gladly rip out his still beating heart and eat it if she thought it would even marginally improve her popularity in school. 

 

Have I mentioned that boys are stupid?  Sometimes I wonder how they get through life acting like such total morons…  No wonder only girls get picked to be slayers.

 

                                                                    Buffy and Angel

 

The walk back to the apartment is quiet.  We’re both lost in thought.  Echoes of the past still far too present.  Longing for the simplicity of the demon days coursing through our blood.  Want.  Take.  Have.  Trying to think Spike’s arrival won’t jeopardize our tenuous hold on the path we’ve chosen.  That we can still seek redemption by making amends.  The specter of Drusilla hangs over us like a question mark.

 

According to Giles’ books, Dru was killed by an angry mob in Prague. 

                                                                     Buffy

 

But I feel the truth in my blood, in my bones.  She is still out there, and the worst is yet to come.

 

                                                       Khartoum, January 9, 1885

 

Dru and I are holding hands, hurrying through crowded streets.  Spike and Angel are off doing boy things and we are having girlie fun. 

 

Girly fun is never dull with Dru.  There are moments when I roll my eyes and rue the day Angel brought her home, and there are moments of shear brilliance when her visions light up the night like a party. 

 

 

                                                    Sunnydale, December 8, 1997

 

I remember us that way, holding hands, running together because we could never go slowly—not when it was just the two of us.

 

                                                          -----------------------------------

 

As we lie in the darkness, bodies curled chastely around one another, Angel voices our worries, and I do my best to reassure him. 

 

We’re not human, but we can live among them. 

 

The girl who was hurt ogled Angel the way she would look at a varsity linebacker, and Willow said goodnight to us as if we were casual acquaintances rather than demons.

 

Angels sighs as he presses his lips against my throat. 

 

He’s thinking about Drusilla and hating himself for her.  He says she was his worst crime and I can’t deny it. 

 

The words die between us and I pull him closer, slide my tongue into his mouth and taste his pain.  Try to soften it.

 

Words can’t reassure him.  Logic can’t convince him that he is good.  But the feeling of connection, the act of caring about him makes me feel almost human.  

 

Something fragile breaks inside me and before I can stop myself I’m the one crying and Angel is holding me, telling me that it's okay.

 

It's not okay.  I'm crying for what I did to him.  The way I wanted him and I took him.  I’m crying because I would do it again, even knowing that is was wrong, knowing that it would lead to his suffering.  I would do it again because I’m selfish and all I could ever see is him—how good it feels to hold him in my arms.  To have him by my side for eternity.  To know that he is mine. 

 

Angel is comforting me for my greatest sin, and because I can't or won't repent, I let him.

 

My eyes close and I let the tears run down my cheeks, under my chin and past the crook of my throat, down to my shoulders, where Angel is lifting my arms and pulling my shirt off.

 

He does it gently.  Like a mother undressing a child.  Then his lips graze lightly against my collarbone, tracing a fiery trail down to my breasts.  I allow myself to melt into him, arms settling on his shoulders welcoming him as he suckles gently, tightening my arms to pull him closer.  He never stops holding me, welcoming with his mouth, caressing with his tongue, as reaches up to wipe the away the tears.

The grief fades in the path of warm, comfortable arousal, a growing ache that spreads out from my core.

 

Reluctantly moving my hand from his shoulders, I reach down and guide his head up to meet mine.  We kiss for aeons.  Tasting each other.  pressed against one another.  Allowing the rhythm to wash over us so that we can forget. 

 

When our clothing is gone and he is buried inside me, his eyes look at me with the same intensity they’ve always held.  He rocks me gently his strong hands pressed against my back.  And I hold on to him as if my world depends on it.

 

                                                                     Angel

 

Buffy clings to me with her strong arms, and I thrust into her harder.  Her body is soft and yielding.  Her kisses thick with lust.

 

The pounding is like a drumbeat that forces me into its rhythm.  The pressure is building and I feel like I’m on the verge of dying, or being reborn. 

 

Sex with Buffy is many things.  Tonight she is riding an unbroken stallion. 

 

She has no hope of taming me; she doesn't even try – holding me as I buck wildly into her, her strength focused on keeping up.  And finally I break apart and spill inside her.  Leaking through the cracks and disappearing from myself.  I will never be tame, but I have always been hers.

 

Buffy cries out as she follows, and dissolves into something softer still.  I am too thick to analyze, too exhausted to examine whether she has found some kind of peace.  heavier than lead, and inches from sleep, I'm too tired to do more than hold her as I fall asleep.  

 

                                                         Part 15 Prelude

 

                                                                    Willow

 

There’s a full house in the library tonight.  I guess when people are dying all around you, being a white hat starts to seem marginally cool. 

 

The usual suspects are all here…Dawn, Xander, Giles, and me. 

 

And Oz is here.  Because he likes me. 

 

I’m still wrapping my mind around that.  One minute he’s all cool and in a band and says hi to me.  Then I think I like him back and Dawnie is rolling her eyes and telling me to go for it.  And the next thing you know he’s sitting at our table after he plays.  And then we get attacked by vampires on the way home and he raises his eyebrow a little, but doesn’t even look amazed.  And then he’s here, in the library for our (formerly) super-secret meeting, and afterwards we’re heading to the bronze.

 

Jenny is here too.  No shock there.  I’m getting used to the idea that she and Giles have a grown-up thing.  They like each other.  That’s cool.  But she’s sometimes bossy. 

 

Did I just say that? 

 

And is it wrong to say that I miss being the super-smart computer girl?  On the bright side, she knows a lot about magic and I think that with a little bit more wheedling I can get her to teach me.

 

Cordelia is back, which is…surprising.  All I can think is that she can’t bear to be left out of anything, even if it’s just a meeting of the “tweakos.”   Either that or she’s chasing Xander. 

 

Okay.  Pause.  I did not just think that.  He’s clearly more spastic than usual because of her.  And Dawn is looking distinctly un-thrilled about it.

 

20 minutes after the sun goes down Buffy and Angel arrive and the meeting begins.

 

                                                          -----------------------------------

 

When Giles tells us he has some new leads that may explain the dark prophecy, this is not what I had in mind.  But after poring through Gile'snotes on  the black chronicles and the prophecies of Dramius (which always put me to sleep, personally) and Willow's dour reporting of the week's news, everything begins to make a kind of horrifying sense.  The theft at the museum.  The missing children.

 

I look at Angel and nod.

 

 “Drusilla is alive,”

 

Angel's shoulders hunch slightly as he says it.  His eyes dart back and forth between various points on the floor, refusing to acknowledge anyone.  It’s typical guilt behavior for Angel. 

 

He made her, he tortured her, he ruthlessly drove her insane, and then centuries later, in a playground in Sunnydale, he let her walk away instead of staking her last night. 

 

He feels responsible, and there’s no point trying to console him. 

 

We don’t fight the good fight because it gets easy or because we’ll get past the point of making mistakes.  We don’t always do the right thing.  Sometimes we can’t.  If Angel started feeding on humans again, I couldn’t kill him.  I know it as intimately as I know my own blood.  It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t chain him up somewhere and try to knock some sense into him—literally, if needed.  But I wouldn’t be able to let him go. 

 

                                                          -----------------------------------

 

Angel is quiet, haunted, when he returns from the hunt.  His countenance is barely altered, but after centuries, I know his tells. 

 

“I guess Drusilla didn't die in Prague?”

 

He quirks a look at me that is almost a smile, and it's more than I expected so soon.

 

Hours later, we are still curled together in the warmth of our bed.  The glow of the candles makes his apartment timeless. 

 

“I don't need you to be good.  I just need you to keep trying.”  I murmur again.  It's not true.  I remember loving him when he was blacker than sin.

 

                                                          -----------------------------------

 

Giles is cleaning his glasses again—something that I’ve come to associate with distress or panic, and I feel a belated pang of my own guilt—shoved aside by the necessity of dealing with Angel's.

 

I made him, I taught him, I encouraged his cruelty—to pride in his talent for the kill.  All of our demons sprang from *my* blood to rain misery on these innocent children who ought to be out living instead of skulking in the shadows with us.

 

                                                                      Dawn

 

“The mob in Prague?”  Giles questions tentatively.

 

He defers more and more to the bloodsuckers, and I can’t say that I like it. 

 

It was bad enough when he was king of the book nerds, but to see even that taken away from him—it’s just sad.  Also, they give my slayer sense the heebie-jeebies.

 

Blah blah blah. 

 

More talk that I don’t need to listen to.  Obviously the mob in Prague couldn’t have killed her too badly if Angel saw her in the playground last night.  Hello?  Even without the fancy watcher knowledge I was able to get that…

 

Giles is talking about some stone box that was stolen from the museum recently.  He was called in to consult on it…which is impressive really…I can just picture all the little wanna-be Giles-es at the museum bowing down before his superior stuffiness.

 

Anyway.  Stone box stolen. 

 

“What does that have to do with us?”

 

Oops.  I said that part out loud, didn’t I?

 

And from Giles’ expression I’m guessing we already went over that.  Double oops.

 

“As I just finished saying, Dawn, the box was inscribed with markings that suggest...”

 

[insert mental yawn here]

 

The irony of this is that I didn’t really care that much in the first place.

 

Blah blah blah. 

 

Markings. 

 

Blah blah blah.  Demon portal.  

 

Clearly it’s a good thing no one asked me to the dance this weekend.  Yeah, a good thing.  Really. 

 

It’s just sad how relieved I am that I don’t have plans I need to cancel.  Did I mention that being the slayer is really great for your social life?

 

                                                                    Spike

 

 

Back at the mansion, the whole sucking the world into hell plan is hitting some snags.

 

The ritual is interesting enough, if you're into the whole chanting around with a bunch of candles and acting pretentious thing.  As it happens, Spike is *not* into those things.  He is looking forward to the part where the portal opens, the pretty lights come out, and Dru clings to him with delight as they are sucked into adventures unknown.  As it stands, he has slashed his wrists, said his lines, and gotten blood on the carpet for his efforts—no open sesame, no pretty lights, and Dru is hovering dangerously on the verge of a disappointed tantrum.

 

Maybe he hasn’t visualized enough.  Could that be it? 

 

Dalton cowers and adjusts his gold spectacles nervously.  He has no idea.  The books have no idea.  They all say the same thing.  A dark and worthy power will rise. 

 

Yadda yadda. 

 

Who's worthier than him?  Spike thinks.  Then again, watching Dru scold her fingers nervously, he decides it might be time to pull in an outside consultant.

 

                                                                    Giles

 

Giles lingers in the library after the others leave.  The pieces have fallen together tonight in a way that he rather wishes they hadn’t, suggesting something fairly cataclysmic.  As usual, there is too little information, and entirely too much apocalypse on the horizon for him to get any rest.

                                                             Part 16 Losses

 

                                                                     Willow

 

The next night at the library we hit the books.  Or at least, some of us do.  Buffy and Angel are out hunting—hoping to get information from the demon community about what’s going down.

 

But I’m here; Xander’s actually reading; and more surprising still, Dawn is here and hasn’t complained more than once (and even then it was pretty halfhearted). 

 

I’m tired, and my back is aching, and I’m selfishly wishing that Oz wasn’t playing so he could be here to rub my shoulders. 

 

It’s about 9 o’clock when the phone rings.

 

Which is weird, because who would call us here?  But Giles picks up and does his polite voice as if normal librarians are still in school at 9pm on Friday.  A minute later, calls Dawn over to take the phone. 

 

Which is even weirder.  Not because she’s never here, but because I’m surprised that anyone but us would know that. 

 

                                                                     Dawn

 

Okay I know what you’re thinking.  I’m here.  People call me. 

 

But I’m actually pretty careful about *not* advertising the fact that I spend freakishly long periods of time in the school library on nights and weekends.  Thinking about the possible options for who’s calling me, I’m actually relieved for once to hear that it’s my Mom.

 

Her voice sounds a little strained as if she’s worried or anxious.  But that doesn’t make a lot of sense. 

 

I told her I was studying with Willow, and since she’s calling me at the library, she obviously knows where I am. 

 

But she doesn’t have time to do more than ask me how I am before I hear a muffled thud and another voice on the phone.  I have no idea who it is. 

 

I’m still yelling “Mom! Mom!”  like an idiot, when the bomb drops. 

 

“It’s Spike, luv, I’ll assume you’ve heard of me.  I want to have a little chat, and if you hurry, Mum might not be dead yet.” 

 

                                                                     Willow

 

Dawn’s face pales, and she drops the phone as if it burns. 

 

She’s already running for the door when I say “Dawny what is it?”

 

She barely hesitates.

 

“Spike.  My mother.  He’s at my house,” she yells back at us.  Then she takes off as if her life depends on it through the heavy double doors.

 

Giles takes a few steps towards the exit as if to follow her, then thinks better of it.  “We need weapons.  We must back her up.” He mutters.  We all look at each other for a minute, then head for the weapons closet.

 

We’re gearing up.  Passing out stakes, crossbows, holy water – perfect accessories for this outfit--I’m thinking. 

 

And suddenly all hell breaks loose. 

 

Vampires everywhere.  Pouring in through the stacks, the double doors, and the side entrance.  we inch closer together as we fend off the attack. 

 

                                                                     Dawn

 

I’m running faster than I’ve ever run before.  My lungs burn and my sides ache. 

 

The slayer in me is invigorated.  Pumped up and ready for battle. 

 

The girl is terrified.  Unable to think about what she might find.

 

When I get to the house I circle it once.  The back door is open and the light is on.  Heart hammering in my chest, I push open the screen door and walk into the kitchen.

 

It looks remarkably scuffle free. 

 

There is a pot of hot cocoa simmering on the stove.  It has grown a slight skin.  I find myself wondering whether she was making it for herself, or for him. 

 

In the opposite doorway the phone is dangling off the hook, and I make my way toward it slowly like I'm trapped in a bad dream.

 

Her body is propped against the wall, lifeless.  She’s bleeding a little bit, but it looks like he didn’t feed.  Her blank eyes stare at me accusingly, and I know what they see. 

 

A daughter who lied and kept secrets that made her mother die, without even knowing what she died for.  I choke back a sob. 

 

Maybe if I had taken the slaying thing more seriously this wouldn’t have happened.  maybe if I had killed vampires with the same energy I spent on going to the mall and picking up boys, my mother wouldn’t be staring at me this way. 

 

Dead. 

 

Maybe if I had told her that I was the slayer, she would have known better than to invite strangers into the house after dark.  Maybe…

 

His voice pulls me out of my dangerous reverie. 

 

“What’s the matter pet—is the cocoa burnt?”

 

He’s taunting me.  I know that, but I can’t stop the blind fury that wells up inside.  He’ll die, or I’ll die fighting him.

 

I assault him with a series of low kicks, and he laughs at me as he lunges with swaggering fists.

 

”Kitten likes to play,” he drawls slowly as he swaggers to engage.

 

We dance for what feels like an eternity. 

 

The house that remained pristine when this monster killed my mother now looks like a tornado hit it. 

 

He slams me against the wall so hard it stuns me, and pins me before I have a chance to think.

 

My back is pressed against the wall and he traces a cold finger down my cheek, lifting my chin. 

 

Suddenly everything is lucid.  I feel the strength return to my limbs.  Before he can open his cruel mouth to hurt with words and fangs and truth, I grab his shoulders and swing my legs up hard to deliver a brutal kick. 

 

The fight continues, but Spike’s taunts are conspicuously absent now.

 

I feel powerful and primitive, finally one with the slayer.  I have nothing to lose, and the thrill of battle is coursing through me.  I force Spike into a crouch at the base of the stairwell and lean in for the kill.

 

I hear him smirk as I stumble over a sweater that my mother must have dropped.  Suddenly the floor is rushing up to meet me, and I hear a sickening crack.  I’m still here, I think, but my body seems detached. 

 

I can’t feel my limbs. 

 

The moment stretches for another eternity.  Nothing happens; adrenaline pours into my racing heart, desperate to help me escape. 

 

I can’t see him. 

 

Then his face plunges toward me and I feel the harsh tearing as he rips into me.

 

I feel like I should understand what is happening.  I've seen it often enough.

 

His greedy slurps lap against my throat.  But the pain is strangely absent.  I don’t hurt.  I can’t cry.  I can’t even rouse myself to protest.

 

Images flash through my mind with startling clarity—with surround sound. 

 

The things I’ll never do.  The person I’ll never be.

 

I see myself dancing with Xander, twirling in circles until I’m dizzy. 

 

The pull of Spike's mouth continues—a demanding pressure on my throat that pulls me back into my body, back to him..

 

Distantly… I feel his fingers trace the swell of my breasts.

 

I’ll never write a bestseller about a girl who fights demons—the fictional memoirs of a teenage vampire slayer.

 

 I’ll never hug my mother again; I’ll never hug a daughter of my own.

 

I can’t feel the pressure anymore, but the slurping continues.  The smell of blood hits me, and I’m bathed in overwhelming peace.

 

Gentle fingers explore my body as I recede.  Tug my clothing aside and press inward.

 

I’ll never make love to a boy.  I’ll never find out if my mother would have loved me for who I really am.

 

I can’t feel his fingers anymore or his teeth in my neck.  But there is gasping—moaning—all around.  I can’t tell if it’s me or him. 

 

A warm glow washes over me and then the darkness swallows me whole.

 

                                               Part 17 The Sword in the Stone

 

                                                                     Xander

 

Everything hurts.

 

I hear the distant sound of ambulance sirens, and a few minutes later loud footsteps.

 

The thought runs through my head like some kind of crazy mantra—I can’t go to the hospital. I have to help Dawn.

 

The next thing I know my body is acting on that -- crawling feebly across the floor toward the side exit.  I remember getting to the door, but not opening it. Then more fun blackness.

 

                                                                     Angel

 

The parking lot is crawling with police and emergency vehicles when we arrive at the school to check in with Giles.

 

“I think we should avoid this little get together.” I motioning toward the commotion in the parking lot.

 

Buffy nods her assent, and we head to the back entrance.

 

The boy is crumpled in a pile in the doorway.

 

It looks like he passed out after he opened the door, but before he managed to crawl through it.  There are voices approaching from inside, and the tell-tale beams of flashlights.

 

Buffy drags the boy out, and says his name quietly.

 

                                                                     Buffy

 

“Xander”

 

He’s not moving at first.

 

Then he mumbles something about his mother and cold hands.  I try shaking him again, and his eyes open.

 

The first look that crosses his face is fear.

 

“It’s okay, Xander, I won’t hurt you.”

 

The name is different, but the words are the same ones I’ve used to coax thousands of frightened victims.  This time I mean them.

 

“What happened here?”

 

“Vampires,” he chokes out, his eyes burning with accusation, “we have to get to Dawn.”

 

I don’t understand.

 

“What happened to Dawn, Xander?”

 

He struggles to stand as chokes out, “Spike.”

 

Angel and I share a brief glance. We should’ve expected this.

 

Spike hunts slayers.  Of course he wanted this one. We head to Dawn’s house as soon as Xander can get to his feet.

 

                                                                     Angel

 

The door is open. 

 

The house is lit, but there is no sign of life.  No sound of fierce battle being waged inside.

 

Buffy motions for the boy to hang back as we cautiously approach the open doorway. She tentatively tries to cross the threshold, and there is no barrier to impede her.  She steps inside and sets her foot down on the disheveled carpet. Then turns to fix me with a grim look.

 

Behind us, the boy is getting agitated.  He must have noticed the exchange, because now he is asking, frantically, what’s wrong.

 

“I’m sorry, Xander,” I pause, “we can’t enter a house if we haven’t been invited.”

 

He doesn’t seem to understand.

 

“But, I just saw her.  She just went inside.”

 

I wait for a minute.  When understanding finally hits him, it’s a horrible moment.  The look of anguish.  The utter defeat.

 

Then he pushes past me, runs to where Buffy is standing.

 

Near the body at the foot of the staircase.

 

He grabs her body and she stares at him—unseeing.

 

The body is cooling already. I can smell it.  And the blood crusted on her neck is dry.

 

“We need to get to the hospital,” I say, though no one seems to be listening.

 

Xander is holding Dawn in his arms like a broken lover, and Buffy is staring at him.

 

“We need to see if Giles found out what they’re planning.”

 

Xander finally looks up bitterly, “agreed.”

 

                                                          -----------------------------------

 

At the hospital, things go from bad to even worse.  Willow is there, and she’s awake.  But Giles and Jenny are nowhere to be found.

 

                                                                    Giles

 

Giles wakes up to sound of nail clippers and a dull throbbing in his head.

 

Always the bloody head.

 

He won’t retire from being watcher so much as pass directly into the vegetable state. The thought does nothing to abate the pounding headache.

 

He reaches to check the wound, only to find that he is tied up.

 

Of course.  It wouldn’t be enough to simply knock him out as usual.

 

He tries to open his eyes, but they were open already. And slowly, the blur that is the outside world comes into unpleasant focus.

 

And with it, Jenny…

 

No. He's still unconscious. Feverish.  Dreaming up nightmares to go with the dull ache of his head.

 

The sound he had mistaken for clippers is clearly not. 

 

Spike is sitting in front of Jenny. Cigarette dangling from his lips. Idly snapping her fingers like twigs. Her screams muffled by a thick layer of duct tape.

 

God no!

 

Not Jenny!

 

                                                                     Spike

 

Spike turns to Giles, clearly delighted that he’s finally woken up.

 

“Rupert, isn’t it?  All watcherly and full of knowledge,” he drawls.

 

There is a pause as if he's forgotten his next line, or maybe a pause to heighten the suspense.  He continues abruptly,

 

“Here’s how it works.  You have certain information about the ritual of Acathla.  Some insight maybe, into what I’m doing wrong.”

 

He stops for a dramatic drag from his cigarette.

 

“If you don’t know, or if you don’t tell me, I torture this one until she dies. And then I get another.”

 

“The slayer …” Giles counters with conviction.

 

Spike cuts him off,

 

“I did enjoy a little go-round with her, but I thought she might be a dangerous pet…*so I put her down*.”

 

He says the last three words with deliberate emphasis.

 

“And if you don’t cooperate, Rupert,“ his voice rolls off the name with contemptuous amusement before he gestures toward Jenny, “then she gets the same”

 

                                                                     Xander

 

“That’s why they didn’t kill you,” Angel tells me, “They wanted information.  They needed to take Giles and Jenny alive.  They didn’t care about the rest of you.”

 

He looks down suddenly after he says this, as if he feels guilty about knowing what they’re up to.

 

Which he should.  Because let’s face it, he probably only knows because he had so much fun doing stuff like that himself back in the day.

 

Or maybe because he taught Spike everything he knew before he joined demons anonymous and got off the killing wagon.

 

Man, I love the vamp crowd.

 

“So what do we do?”

 

A cruel smile flits briefly over Buffy’s face in response, and the image is chilling, “we do a little recon.”

 

                                                          -----------------------------------

 

Two hours of torturing random vampires later, we finally find one that actually knows something.

 

By this time, between the head injury and the rampant gore, I’m busy emptying the contents of my stomach in the corner.  By the time I’m finished, it’s done.

 

Another pile of ash in Sunnydale and the two “good” vampires (note my wary sarcasm) are waiting for me.

 

We’re heading toward the old mansion on Crawford Street – something about a demon portal sucking the world into hell.

 

But I’m not supposed to worry about that.  My job is to get Giles and Jenny out, and assuming they are still capable of it, run to minimum safe distance.

 

It makes sense. I’m just the sidekick.  I leave the heroic stuff to the heroes.  To people like Dawn.

 

                                                                     Jenny

 

Jenny is broken.  Her eyes are glazed over with pain and shock.  She has long since stopped wishing that she could tell Giles not to tell them anything.  She just wants the pain to stop.

 

There is a brief pause, and Jenny almost cries with relief.  Until she feels her pants ripped off brutally.

 

And she has the temerity to look down.

 

                                                                     Spike

 

Spike is especially pleased with himself.  The bit about shagging the school marm with a pointed stick is pure genius—really a nice touch of the old finesse. The old Angel, his sire, would have been proud.

 

Before he went all soul-having—the stupid wanker.

 

The thought makes Spike feel vicious.  And he's almost disappointed when the librarian yells, “wait!”

 

After only one thrust… sometimes it's too easy.

 

No matter.  He can always try to squeeze in another spot of torture before the ritual goes down.

 

“Well, mate, be quick about it,” he barks out--his well-practiced bad guy voice tinged with just a hint of bored impatience.

 

                                                                     Spike

 

Giles shudders to think of what his weakness will mean to the world, but he can’t sit by and watch Spike …brutalize her that way.  His father was right to doubt him.  He was selfish, just as he always had been. And she was more important to him than the world.

 

“The blood…it must be Drusilla’s.”

 

His head drops in defeat, but not before he catches a glimpse of Spike's self-satisfied smirk.

 

                                                                     Buffy

 

The ritual is in high gear by the time we arrive.  Drusilla stands before the statue muttering—presumably the incantations needed to help Spike free the sword.

 

The sword is still lodged in the stone. 

 

Taking the scene in quickly, Angel and I exchange a silent signal, I’ll prevent Spike from reaching the statue while Angel deals with Drusilla.

 

                                                                     Xander

 

Buffy and Angel jump out into the mix like superheroes, and I stare at them for a minute before creeping out of the shadows and making my way past the main room where Spike and Drusilla are doing the ritual to  awaken up the evil statue.

 

Amazingly, no one seems to notice me.  I’m just a kid. 

 

They’re more worried about the angry redemption-hungry vampires in their midst.  Not that I blame them.

 

When I find Jenny I want to rip my eyes out of my head.

 

The wooden…thing…is still lying next to her and there is blood everywhere.

 

Red spatters on the torn remains of her clothing—some still hanging from her body, others scattered on the floor.

 

Deep red pools on the stone tiles beneath the chair she is tied to.

 

I can’t change this image. Can’t rip the picture out of my mind.  And I know it will haunt me like the memory of Dawn—staring at me with her big dead eyes—until the day I die.

 

Which might be sooner rather than later if we don’t get out of here.

 

Right.

 

Giles seems lucid so I untie him first. So he can help her.

 

I’m not thinking anymore. Just moving like an automaton.  I throw my jacket over Jenny, as much to protect myself from the violation as to create some semblance of normalcy.  Then I help Giles lift her under the arms and drag her out of this hellish place.

 

Buffy and Angel still fighting when we leave.  And I think they are winning.  But I don’t care.  What does it matter if the world gets sucked into hell now?

 

Don’t answer that.  Just keep running.  Stumbling to get away.

 

                                                                     Buffy

 

 

The portal is opening.

 

The minions converge on Angel as he heads for Dru.  Weirdly, none of they seem worried about protecting Spike.

 

                                                                     Drusilla

 

Dru waltzes closer to Angel … untouched by the melee around her.

 

She has parting words for her lost daddy.  After the end there will be no more time to play.

 

“They used to eat lemons, and cake, and honey….” She sing-songs sweetly, “…until you came along and ripped their throats out.”

 

Angel looks up and meets her eyes with anguish.

 

“Dru.”

 

The lullaby is over; her voice is hard and deadly, “bite your tongue!” She spits out.

 

Her palms are dripping with blood.

 

To open the portal and start the party.

 

He looks down again.  His grief is beautiful and paralyzing.

 

He doesn’t know that I am one with the party favor.

 

He thinks it is the prince of cups, but it is not his birthday!  As he looks down, the curve of his neck sighing, crying for her, she reaches back and pulls out the sword.

 

Everything is singing to her.  Even the stone hums.

 

                                                                     Buffy

 

“Looks like your girlfriend’s still pretty hung up on Angel, huh?  Is she even trying to fight him?”

 

The taunting is reflexive with Spike.  Usually it's too easy. 

 

This time he looks past me with that worn out smirk.

 

“I wouldn’t rate that at the top of my worries at the moment, if I were you.”

 

I respond with a vicious kick and spin to face the dormant statue.  And then stop in horror.

 

I leap through the mob of underlings, cutting them down in swathes, but there's no time to stop it.  Dru has pulled the sword from the stone and holds it wonderingly in her bloody hands.

 

“Angel!”

 

                                                                    Angel

 

Angel shakes the minions loose and dives for Dru, but it's too late.  She pulls the sword from the stone like and smiles at him with girlish delight.

 

Across the room he hears Buffy’s anxious cry, and forces himself tackle his only child.

 

The sword flies from her hands and he throws himself after it.

 

Dru raises her voice in agitated keening; her hands flutter like broken sails at her side and then she leaps at him as he scrambles for the sword. pelting his back with angry fists like a hysterical child.

 

The vortex grows wider.

 

Angel reaches the sword with Drusilla clinging to his neck, swinging precariously behind him.  The portal is opening, and he knows what he has to do, what he should have done one hundred years ago.

 

The secret to opening and closing portals is always blood.

 

Angel twists his demented child from his back and deposits her in a pile on the floor—the gaping maw of Acathla positioned directly behind her. 

 

The portal swirls hypnotically.

 

It's like the depths of the ocean viewed through a glass-bottomed boat.  Darkness punctuated by bursts of color and pressure, so thick it's suffocating.

 

Dimly, as if it's happening at a great distance, he notes that Buffy is fighting Spike again, and that most of the minions have been dusted.

 

Dru's luminous saucer eyes stare at him in disbelief as he shoves the sword through her gut and sends her plummeting through the portal.

 

Across the room Buffy ducks another kick and smiles at Spike with her most winning grin.

 

“Looks like your girlfriend went off without you again,” she smirks, the flat of her palm arcing gracefully to connect with his chin, “maybe you should follow her…”

 

Spike blanches as he sees Dru disappear into the swirling ether.  And Buffy closes in.  Assaulting him with a series of roundhouse kicks that force him across the room, closer to the closing portal.

 

“Here, let me give you a hand,”

 

She punctuates the offer with a sudden shove that sent him hurtling into the vortex to join his sire.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                              Dedications

 

When I first wrote this in 2003 I made detailed notes about the writers and stories that inspired me.  I dedicated chapters to them to both express my thanks and what I loved about their stories.  I tried to pick chapter that tied back to them – at leats in my mind.  And then I never posted the story.  So eight years later, I hope some of these amazing writers are still out there so I can tell them how much they inspired me.

 

Thanks again for the great stories.  You kept me in love with Buffy and Angel when Joss tried to cheapen them.  You are in my heart.

 

Part 9 Welcome to the Hellmouth

 

Is dedicated to Lofty Heights because culture shock has all the drama and none of the angst, made me laugh so hard I almost peed myself and had to read it to my sister over the phone. This isn’t nearly as funny as culture shock, but I think it may be as close as I get. 

 

And to my sister.  Because I once told her that she was like Dawnie—because I had only seen snippets of Dawn  telling off Glory, so I thought she was a tough-ass, and I still feel badly about it.  I can’t fix Dawn, as it turns out, but my hope is that she’s at least interesting. 

 

<i>Part 10 Cryptic Girl</i>

 

Is dedicated to Bulletproof, Chrislee, Adia, Laura, and Yseult who write b/a that’s surreal and luminous. 

 

Part 11 Out of the Shadows

 

Is dedicated to the authors I started reading at the end of the series – who gave me hope that the well hadn't dried up yet: Buffychick, Tori Blue, and Dlgood.

 

Part 12 Small Talk

 

Is dedicated to Leni because she writes amazing b/a dynamics, and the BEST Giles.

 

Part 13 Crashers

 

Is dedicated to all the pseudo b/s shippers who didn’t like the way it turned out on the show.  And to all the Spike lovers and ex-Spike lovers who miss the old Spike who was funny and evil and loved Dru.

 

Part 14 Hit and Run

 

Is dedicated to the AU authors who make Buffy and Angel human, but keep them interesting: Kim (masquerade), Apollonia (almost famous), Eleni Angel (black hand trilogy), and Leni (more than friends series).

 

Part 15 Prelude

 

Is dedicated to Rikhei, because she wanted to know what was going on with Spike.

 

Part 16 Losses

 

Is dedicated to all the Spike/Dawn shippers who will take it any way they can get it.  You know who you are…

 

And to my sister, again, because she gave me feedback faster than was humanly possible, and because she asked for a chapter where a sister dies.

 

Part 17 The Sword in the Stone

 

Is dedicated to Ducks for stages of grief, the cure, after the rain, something old and the drinking scene in worlds of longing.  Because the cure chapter 1 was the first good fanfiction I ever read, and it made me come back for more and more and more.