As soon as the sun started setting the group in Buffy's house started rising. They gathered in the kitchen and diningroom eating what some knew would be their last meal. Spike and Angel drank the last of Spike's blood stash.

Buffy surveyed her tired army and prayed it would be enough. "Angel," she asked, "did you hear from your people in L.A. yet?"

"Yes," Angel said, putting the cup he'd been drinking from behind his back, as if he were a bit ashamed of it.

Spike on the other hand was standing brazenly next to Willow on the sink side of the island counter as he drank. Everyone knew he was a vampire. What was the point of hiding it?

"Wes called me on my cell phone earlier," Angel continued. "He and Connor are on their way. But I don't think they'll be here till tomorrow." As soon as Angel had said the name Connor he flinched. He hadn't intended to tell Buffy about his son until later, at some hopefully better time.

"We can use that extra muscle whenever we can get it," Faith said. She was hovering next to Angel. "B . . . wait till you see how much Wesley has changed. He's quite the hardened demon hunter now. And Connor . . . he's almost a male slayer."

Willow shot Faith a warning look. She'd been hoping to avoid the topic of Connor at least till after the battle . . . If there was an after the battle.

But Faith ignored Willow's warning look, as well as the pleading one Angel was giving her. She'd been looking to drop this proverbial bomb ever since she'd gotten there. Willow had talked to her on the drive there about putting off talk about Angel's personal life till after things quieted down. But now that Angel was there and Connor was on the way over . . . and what with the world maybe ending and all . . . now seemed like the perfect time to tell Buffy.

"Almost a male slayer?" Buffy said. "We could sure use one of those. What is he? Some kind of demon?"

"No," Faith said. "He's human with a soul and everything, but he has super- strength, which he inherited from his parents. They weren't human. At least not at the time he was born."

"Faith . . ." Angel said.

It was about to come out, Willow knew it. And Buffy was going to need some privacy in which to process the information. An excuse . . . Willow needed an excuse to get everyone out of the room . . . except for Buffy and Angel and Faith, of course. Oh, and Spike, this would ultimately effect him too. Giles and the principal were off in the diningroom. That was good. They probably would have insisted on staying. "I think I need to pick up some magic supplies in my room," Willow suddenly announced in a loud voice. "Kennedy . . . won't you help me?"

Kennedy gave Willow a questioning look, but followed her as she started toward the livingroom.

"And you all," Willow said scooping up the nearest potentials and thrusting them toward the livingroom. "You better start gathering your weapons. You too," Willow said, pushing Xander and Anya next. "Shouldn't wait till the last minute."

"OK," Buffy said after most of the people in the room had been cleared out. "That was really weird. Is there something strange about this Connor I need to be warned about? Like maybe he's thirty feet tall and blue or something?"

Spike shrugged his shoulders and continued to drink the rest of his breakfast. What did he care what kind of a demon this Connor was?

"Buffy, I . . ." Angel stuttered.

"Please don't stall. The end of the world is coming and I really don't want to be late."

"Connor is my son."

Spike suddenly started choking.

"What?" Buffy said.

"That's impossible!" Spike insisted.

"Yeah, that's what I thought," Angel said. "Actually, that's what both Darla and I thought."

"Darla?" Buffy said.

"She was Connor's mother. She died giving birth to him."

"Darla . . . a mother?" Spike snorted in derisive laughter.

"But how?" Buffy asked. "I mean besides the obvious sex stuff that you and Darla must have had together. I thought Darla was dust. And vampires can't have children anyway."

"I'll explain about Darla coming back later. But about Connor . . . At first we thought it had something to do with a prophecy. But that didn't pan out. Now we're thinking it's because of the soul. That maybe vampires with a soul can have children."

Spike almost dropped his cup. "What?"

"I'm sorry, Buffy," Angel said. "I didn't know it was possible. If I had . . ." He was apologizing because he'd left her partly because he couldn't give her children.

But Buffy had already skipped past her relationship with Angel and had gone on to thinking about her present one with Spike. The two blonds looked at each other from across the room with wide eyes, realizing what this could mean for them.

"Anyway," Angel continued. "Connor got kidnapped to another dimension and by the time we got him back he'd grown to late teenage." He exchanged looks with Faith. "That's the basic story. Except that he and I have a lot of issues."

"There's actually a whole lot more to the story," Faith said.

"But the rest can wait till later," Angel said quickly. "We should, um, probably get ready now." And he piloted Faith forcefully out of the kitchen. "That couldn't have waited till later?" he reprimanded the dark haired slayer.

"No, it couldn't. Never said I was completely redeemed yet."

Silence fell between Buffy and Spike for a moment. Then Spike wandered to his lover's side.

"Well . . . there's something we never thought of," Spike said. "You and me could become parents."

"I'm not sure how I feel about that," Buffy said.

"Can't say I do either." Spike came up behind Buffy and put his arms around her, resting his head on her shoulder. "But maybe it's another reason for us to put an end to the apocalypse."

"Maybe," Buffy said.

Spike ran his hands down and around Buffy's stomach. He was thinking maybe that he liked the idea of Buffy carrying his child, of being a father.

Buffy put her hands over his. It was something she hadn't thought of in a long time. Being both a slayer and a mother would be hard. She might die while her children were still young and leave them hurting and angry. But they'd still have Spike and maybe Dawn and Willow and Xander. And if Faith survived this battle tonight, maybe Buffy wouldn't have to bear all of the slayer burden alone anymore. It was a tempting thought.

"What d'ya say, Buffy. You and me. We could found ourselves a whole dynasty of little slayers."

"Not right now," Buffy said. "But maybe later. First we've got an apocalypse to stop."

She turned around in his arms and snuggled into him. Then with a quick kiss, they broke apart and she led the way into the livingroom.

"Everyone ready?" Buffy asked.

"Just need my coat," Spike said.

"I need a weapon," Andrew whined. He had been keeping watch at the house for the last couple of nights, but this time everyone was going out.

"We've got an extra crossbow," Dawn said.

"That's fine," Buffy said.

"Oh, no!" Spike said. He was part way in the hall on his way upstairs. "You are not putting a cross bow into his hands. There's far too much likelihood that he'll misfire the thing and I'll find myself dusty."

"We can only hope," the principal muttered under his breath. He was standing off in the corner with Giles on one side and Angel on the other. Giles didn't hear the aside and neither did Faith. But Angel with his acute vampire hearing had.

"Fine," Buffy said. "Kennedy, give him your sword. You can take the cross bow."

This seemed to appease Spike. He continued on his way upstairs as everyone else continued milling about getting ready. Giles left his spot next to the principal to help Willow double check that she had everything she needed.

"You don't like my grandchilde much, huh?" Angel asked the principal. Faith had told him the night before about what had been happening recently between the principal, Giles, Spike, and Buffy. He could understand someone trying to track down and destroy the vampire who had killed his mother. But Angel didn't like the way the principal had lied to Buffy for six months about who he was. Then he had plotted behind her back to take out one of her most valuable fighters. Both he and Giles had showed a total lack of respect for Buffy and her position as the slayer. Maybe it had been the First's influence. But it didn't sit well with Angel. Buffy had given her all for her job and deserved their respect. And Spike . . . well, he'd done something pretty amazing by vampire standards in terms of getting a soul on his own. And Spike was, after all his grandchilde. Family was family.

The principal looked at Angel with disdain. The vampire seemed to be laughing at him.

"I don't blame you really," Angel said. "William has always been something of a wimp. A poet and a romantic . . . even after he was turned. He just never understood how really ruthless a vampire has to be sometimes." Angel smiled a very big wicked smile. "But I do."

The principal didn't like Angel's hungry look or the fiendish sparkle in his eyes. The underlying threat wasn't subtle. Angel looked as if he were interested in showing him just how cruel and brutal a "real" vampire could be. Without a word, the principal crossed the room as far away from Angel as possible.

"Now who's in need of a little redemption?" Faith asked.

Angel looked at the smirk on the beautiful slayer's full lips. "I never said I was fully redeemed," he said. "Besides being redeemed doesn't mean you can't have a little fun now and then."

- - - - - - - - - -

Buffy led the way toward the vineyard with the scythe glowing in her hands. Spike walked just behind her, with Faith and Angel just behind him. Willow and Anya followed behind in the center of the rest of their group.

The Turok-han came out in full force to greet them and Buffy waded right in. The scythe clipped off their heads as if they were dandelions. The Uber-vamps weren't programmed for fear of any kind, so they just kept on coming, almost filing up to be slaughtered. Still, there was no way that Buffy could get all of them. There was a great army streaming around them. Spike, Angel, and Faith branched out to destroy as many as they could. But several more of the potentials were caught up and killed in the struggle. Still, they were able to protect Willow and Anya as they began their spell.

Buffy moved forward into the vineyard with Spike right behind her. Faith and Angel stayed behind to fight the Uber-vamp swarm.

As Buffy and Spike got closer to the new Hellmouth opening, the First appeared in the shape of Buffy. "So nice of you to visit me in my loneliness," it taunted. "But you're too late. Even if you close the Hellmouth now, my army will still visit untold destruction on your world. The mopping up process with be long and hard."

"Where's Caleb?" Buffy demanded.

Her evil twin smiled. "My ringbearer is out of the way. Find him if you can."

A funnel of light appeared at their side and in the center was the woman who had given the scythe to Buffy. "The scythe can sense the ring," she said. "As you grow closer, it will give off a green light."

"I should have killed you a lot earlier," the First growled.

"It wouldn't have made any difference," the woman in the light said. "The scythe would still have been finished, by others if not by me. The slayer line cannot be beaten." And she disappeared.

"You still have to get through my armies," the First said, swinging its Buffy-ish hair confidently. "Every moment another battalion comes out of the Hellmouth. You can't possibly stop them all."

"There's nothing to do but slice our way forward," Buffy said.

And so they did. Uber-vamp heads flew this way and that, followed by sprays of dust. Buffy choked and wished she'd worn a pair of goggles. Spike kept the horde from coming at her back. They pushed straight ahead until the scythe started to glow a faint green. But as they went a bit further the gleam returned to gold. This was the tricky part. They had been going directly into the gang of Uber-vamps, following them to the place where the Hellmouth was opening. But evidently that was not where Caleb was waiting.

Buffy doubled back to the place where the scythe had first shown green. She moved left a bit and it went gold again. So, they went right. The closer they got to Caleb, the brighter the green light emanating from the scythe became. They found him in an open part of the vineyard. Spike started at him first, the plan being to distract him so that Buffy could get a clear shot at his ring hand. But for the most part, Spike only succeeded in getting himself thrown around. Buffy was occupied with harvesting the heads of the Turok-han that were still coming steadily towards them. Caleb stood back and laughed, enjoying the fun of trouncing the slayer, even as she stood with the all-powerful scythe in hand.

He stopped laughing, however, as Willow's spell began to take effect.

All this time Willow and Anya had been preparing for their spell. As they reached the end of the incantation, Willow's eyes started to blacken and her arms rose in the direction of the Uber-vamps that were pressing down on them from all sides. An electric charge flew from her to the vamps. It stopped them in their tracks and they began swaying and vibrating. Fingers of green reached from them into the sky and into the ground at their feet.

"It's working!" Anya called out. Or at least she thought it was.

The Hellmouth where the Turok-han had been storming out did indeed begin to close. But that was just the beginning. With the magic of the ring still in Caleb's hands, there was still instability in the walls between the worlds. While one part of the Hellmouth closed, another part opened . . . right near where the Scoobies were fighting. As it opened, it created a vacuum, which picked up several of their members and pulled them inside, including Dawn and Xander.

"No! NO!" Anya screamed. "You've got to bring them back!"

Willow's eyes turned to Anya and she smiled.

Anya was terrified. It looked as if evil Willow had returned. Anya tried to pull away from the vortex of magic that existed between her and the witch, but she couldn't.

"We need to widen it," Willow said. "Bigger!" she shouted to the sky. And the ground shook. A crack appeared and advanced down the vineyard into the area where Caleb was fighting with Buffy and Spike.

Willow snapped her arms apart and the gulf between the worlds snapped open wider, pulling several monster vamps and Spike into it.

"Spike!" Buffy yelled. But she didn't have time to mourn.

Willow reached out in front of her with her right hand and made a fist as she brought her left close to her body and flattened it out forward. "Bring mine to me and return those that belong!" she commanded. And she pulled in with her right hand and pushed out with her left. Immediately the Turok-han were pushed into the opening of the Hellmouth as her friends were pulled out.

Xander and Dawn found themselves on the ground where they'd first started a few moments before. Spike was lying at Caleb's feet. All of the Turok-han were gone. Unfortunately, since Willow didn't have a great army of super- demons to draw energy from any longer, her control over the situation quickly vanished and her eyes returned to normal.

But Caleb and the First were now completely caught off guard. Spike grabbed Caleb's leg and sent him to the ground. Buffy used the opening to raise the scythe and bring it down on the hand where Caleb wore the ring. As the member fell away, the ring came loose and fell to the ground separately.

Caleb grabbed for his injured arm, crying out in pain. But Buffy took no notice. She took up the ring and put it on her finger.

Over her shoulder Buffy heard the voice of the woman from the light. "Now drive the scythe into the ground!" she commanded.

Buffy did as she was told, sending the blade of the deep into the ground. The earth shook and the sky above it rocked with thunder as the tear between the dimensions began to close and the walls became strong again. A few of the Turok-han had been trying to cross back through the rift, but they were caught in-between and crumbled into to dust as they were cut apart.

The First stood there angrily with hands on hips, facing down her look- alike. "Kill her!" it commanded.

Caleb, brave little psycho that he was, pulled out a knife and started to lunge at Buffy. But since he had lost his super-powers when he lost the ring, Spike easily tackled him to the ground and finished him off.

The funnel of light returned and the lady who had given Buffy the scythe appeared once again in its center. "There's but one more thing to do," she said.

Buffy knew what it was instinctively. She let the blade of the scythe fly up and through the figure of the First. It evaporated, still with a scowl on its face.

"It's a strange feeling, killing yourself," Buffy observed.

"You didn't kill the First," the lady in the light said. "You only returned him to the dimension where he belongs. He still exists."

"Yeah, well, he better not show his skanky self around here again. What a nerve he had, impersonating me!" Buffy looked to the woman in the light. "What do I do with these now," she asked, meaning the ring and the scythe.

"You keep them and pass them on through the slayer line. And if you need me, I will come again." And with that, she disappeared once more.

"I could really use a shower," Buffy said. "I should have taken one in the hotel when I had the chance."

"'Fraid there'll be a long line waiting for the bathroom when we get home, Luv." He put his arm around her and they started off in the direction where they knew their friends would be waiting. "Course, I could give you a massage to help loosen up some of those tight muscles . . . A nice intimate massage," he said, letting his voice trail off suggestively.

"Mmmm," Buffy said, leaning into him and letting her hand wander over his the body under his duster. "I could go for that. But first some food. I didn't get any breakfast."

"Fine," Spike said. "First food . . . then fun."

- - - - - - - - - -

In the field outside of the vineyard, Buffy's friends were pulling themselves together. Giles and Faith were attending to the surviving potentials. Dawn was looking for Buffy and Spike. Xander and Anya had already started back to the house, with the principal loping behind. Angel was standing off apart from them by a gutted store, wondering what to do next.

As Angel considered, a funnel of light grew up beside him. He immediately knew who it was from Buffy's description. "You're the one who gave Buffy the scythe, right?" he asked her.


"Then I take it they're all right and the Hellmouth was closed?"

"Yes, it was."

"Then why are you still sticking around?"

"To talk to you. What would you say if I told you that I had the power to grant your dearest wish? . . . To make you human again?"

Angel considered, looking off in the direction of the vineyard. Buffy and Spike had just come into view. Dawn immediately enveloped her sister in a bear hug. Spike stood by with an immense smile on his face that got even bigger when Dawn hugged him as well.

"Are you thinking that you could win her back if you were human once more?" the lady in the light asked.

"No. We've both moved on. What Buffy and I had was . . . wonderful. But it belongs to another time."

"And what would you say if I told you that the prophecy about your becoming human involved another apocalypse . . . with another slayer?"

Angel looked at her questioningly. Then he realized. Turning back to the group still at the edge of the vineyard, he saw Faith. She was standing and watching him, concern written across her face as to what the lady in the light might want with him. "You mean Faith?" he asked.

"You two do have quite a bit in common. And there are still many wars to be fought. There's a reason why Angelus sought out her mind in particular to open himself too. The darkness in some creatures is often attracted to the lightness in others and vice versa."

Angel's eyes traveled to Buffy and Spike, now walking toward home with Dawn. "Yes, I'm beginning to see that." He turned back to look at the woman in the light. But she had already gone, leaving him to his thoughts.

"What was that all about," Faith asked, coming up to him.

"She was just telling me that were other battles to be fought and always another apocalypse."

"I think we could have told her that," Faith said. She put her hands on her hips. "So. Are you coming back with us or not?"

"Maybe for a bit," he said. "I was going to ask if you would come back to Los Angeles with me."

Faith's luminous brown eyes got brighter. "You want me to?"

"Yeah. Things have been kind of wild over there, as you know. I could use your help."

Faith shifted her shoulders back and forth. "Maybe."

"Good," Angel said, hooking his arm around her and guiding her in the direction of Buffy's house. "You and I could have a beautiful friendship, you know. But first . . . I need you to keep an eye on things for me for a while. I have to go out of town for a couple of weeks."

"Where to?" she asked.


-- The End --