Title: Inverted Triangle (7/?)

Author: Cyclone

Feedback: Please be gentle.

Distribution: Gimme credit and a link. Plus, archived at

Rating: I'm gonna go say PG-13.

Spoilers: Up to Help and diverges after it.

Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to the almighty Joss. I'm just borrowing them for a while.

Summary: Love on the Hellmouth is never as easy as it seems.

Author's Note: This fanfic includes B/X, W/X, B/W, and a sprinkling of T/X. Oh, and some B/X/W too. What can I say? I like love triangles.

* * *

Xander held the mace ready, watching Rose advance on him slowly. He was trying to stop shaking but was failing miserably. He closed his eyes and chanted under his breath, "It's not Willow. It's not Willow. It's not Willow."

"Fulmenos venite!"

Lightning arced out and struck the mace, which he dropped in a hurry. "Yow!"

He danced back, turned, and ran.

Xander paused long enough to scoop up a sword dropped by one of the skeletons he'd smashed to bits earlier.

He ran as fast as he could, not really paying attention to where he was going. Soon, he was lost, but he could still hear Rose behind him, walking leisurely along and cackling maniacally.

He shuddered. Willow's voice was not meant to be twisted like that.

* * *

Buffy easily twisted Alex into a hold, but just as she was about to slam her stake into his heart, his face shifted, and Xander's plaintive voice begged, "Buffy, no."

She froze.

And that was the opening he needed. Alex's face twisted into the vampiric game face again, and he flipped her, throwing her across the room. "Stupid little Buffy," he taunted. "Making the same mistakes again and again. Don't you ever learn?"

She staggered to her feet and cursed herself. *Oh, God,* she thought painfully, *it's just like Angel again.*

She shuddered and back away slowly until she reached the doorway behind her, then she turned and ran.

* * *

CRASH!

Xander shook his head and looked up to see Buffy sprawled on her back in front of him.

"Buffy?"

"Xander? Is that really you?"

He blinked in confusion, "Why wouldn't it be me?" He shook his head, "Never mind. Buff, Rose's gone _nuts_! I dunno what's goin' on, but she just went all Dark Phoenix on me."

She opened her mouth, but before she could say anything, a vampire rounded the corner behind her and grinned. "Time to die, Buffy."

Xander froze for a moment. That was _his_ voice! That... _vampire_... looked almost just like him! But he shook it off and reacted as his vampiric twin moved toward Buffy.

Xander rose to his feet and sent his sword into a high arc, decapitating the vampire. Xander stared at the blue slime oozing from the headless form of what should have been a big pile of dust, then turned to Buffy, "What the hell's going on here, Buff?"

The Slayer didn't reply, merely staring at him in disbelief. A small smile grew on her face, "It's you. It's really you." She flung herself at him and wrapped her arms around him, crying into his shoulder, "Oh, God. Xander, I..."

"C'mon, Buff," he said gently. "We can't just stand around here. Rose..."

"She's not real," Buffy said, pulling back. She nodded toward the dissolving body and said, "That... that was Alex. Him... Anne... Rose... they're all fakes."

"Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!"

They whirled around, and there stood Rose, smirking at them.

* * *

Willow stumbled down the corridor. She tried to fight the tears but was failing miserably. Seeing Anne... Buffy... like that... like _Faith_...

It was just too much.

So she ran.

* * *

"Okay," Xander said, "this is officially of the bad."

Rose stalked toward them, purple and red energy crackling around her hand like ball lightning. She thrust her hand out, and Buffy tackled Xander to the ground. Xander felt the hairs on the back of his neck stiffen as the unnatural lightning bolt flashed over them, ionizing the air above them.

Rose's face twisted into a snarl, but her next magical assault was blunted, dissipating against a magical barrier.

Xander blinked, "W-Willow?"

The redhead looked worn out, tired... but grimly determined.

"Vincire!"

Rose blinked in surprised confusion at the bands of green energy wrapping around her. She snarled and struggled, but the bindings didn't give.

Willow turned to Buffy and Xander, "Buffy? X-Xander?"

"It's really us," Buffy said reassuringly.

"How do I know that?" she asked, tremulously.

Xander acted without thinking. He rose to his feet and pulled Willow into a hug.

And he kissed her.

Through his lips, he poured every ounce of the love he felt for the woman he had neglected for so long. He savored the moment, knowing that it was probably the last time he'd be able to kiss her like this.

After a moment, she pulled back, her eyes shimmering, "It's you."

They heard a snort. "How touching," a voice said sarcastically. "Real Kodak moment, guys."

They turned.

Anne stood next to Rose, a disgusted look on her face. Black energy pulsed from Rose, shattering the binding spell. They smirked, and Anne attacked, charging toward Xander and Willow, knife drawn back. They froze like deer caught in headlights. Neither of them could muster the will to react.

But Buffy could.

And she did.

The Slayer intercepted her clone and did what she couldn't do to Alex, plunging her stake into Anne's chest. Blue slime bubbling from within, and Anne collapsed.

Rose howled and thrust her arms out toward Buffy. Lightning leapt from her fingers and into Buffy, coarsing through the Slayer's body and flinging her back.

"NO!"

With a gesture, Willow slashed apart Rose's second volley and hurled a bolt of flame at her dark-haired clone. Rose merely flicked her wrist and deflected the fireball to the side.

Rose drew a complex symbol in the air, and Willow's second spell dissipated inches from her. Willow stalked toward Rose, hurling various spells, each of which were blunted mere inches before striking her evil twin.

Willow shook her head in disbelief, and Rose smiled again, "It's a null magic field. You can't hurt me."

Willow's face twisted into a Resolve Face, and she smiled tightly, "Wanna bet?" She hauled back and punched her evil twin in the face.

Rose blinked in surprise and stumbled back. Her concentration broken, she held up a hand and deflected Willow's next spell, and the next, but the third one, an icy bolt of freezing cold, penetrated her defenses.

Xander leaned over Buffy's prone body, "Buffy? Buffy!" *No,* he thought, *not again!* He checked her pulse, checked her breathing.

Nothing.

*...thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, and _breathe_!*

Buffy sucked in a breath and blinked up at him. She smiled and gave a melodramatic sigh, "My hero."

He helped her up, and Willow pulled Xander into a hug and said in small voice, "Xander... I... I thought I'd lost you."

"You'll never lose me, Wills. Not if I can help it."

"Bravo." The words were accompanied by the sound of someone clapping lazily.

They turned, and Buffy's jaw dropped, "You."

Dhorrgak the Unholy smiled. "Yes. Me."

"I killed you."

"You killed a simulacrum of me. Much like the simulacra of yourselves you just slew. I have to admit, I thought they'd present a bit more of a challenge for you than that."

Xander stepped forward, placing himself between the Dhorrgak and the two women, causing the demon to chuckle in amusement. "Why are you doing this?" he asked.

"Curiousity," Dhorrgak replied. "It's not every day -- or perhaps I should say 'night' -- that a vampire comes seeking a soul. I wanted to see just what was so special about this Slayer that would make a vampire do something so... against his nature."

"So this is all a _game_ to you?!" Buffy snarled.

"More of an experiment. A research study, if you will."

"I will _not_!" Buffy snapped, hurling her stake at him, completely oblivious to the fact that her statement made absolutely no sense.

The wooden implement passed harmlessly through Dhorrgak, and he chuckled, "Oh, did I forget to mention? This is just an illusion, not the real me." His smile turned cruel, and he gestured. A section of wall slid open, revealing Spike standing motionless behind it, his eyes closed, and Dhorrgak added, "He, on the other hand, is quite real."

Dhorrgak's image shifted and shrank until it looked like Buffy, then turned to face Spike. The illusion smiled and said, with Buffy's voice, "Go get 'em, tiger."

Spike's eyes suddenly snapped open. Snarling ferally, he leaped to the attack.

* * *

Author's Postscript:

Nothing like a good old fashioned plot twist.