PAIRINGS: canon
SPOILERS: themes up to season 6, set between "Grave" and "Bargaining"
GENRE: novel, gen-fic, angst, comedy - WIP
SUMMARY: Buffy is dead, but the Scoobies carry on fighting. When the Crusader comes to Sunnydale Spike has to fight an old enemy...
AUTHOR'S NOTE: After S5 I tried to write a proper tie-in novel, one that would stay in canon, about the summer of Buffy's death. Of course I was way too optimistic with regard to Spike's Scooby integration. I now intend to dust the story off, rewrite it and spice it up a little. But it will stay close to canon.



Prologue

New York, April 2001

"Report."

The old vampire stood with his back to the large office in front of a darkly tinted panoramic window, looking at the morning sky. He watched the burning ball of fire, as it appeared above the skyscraper skyline, its lethal rays softened to a mere irritation of the skin. The muted sunlight felt warm, almost pleasantly so. He could stand there for almost fifteen minutes before seriously beginning to smoke and blister.

The other two vampires carefully avoided the direct sunlight. The mere thought of the sun's brilliance made them uncomfortable. They revelled in being creatures of darkness and didn't share their Master's preoccupation with anything sunny.

"Sunnydale is protected by the Slayer, My Lord," a good looking man with Slavic features said. He was speaking English with a strong Russian accent. His name was Innokenti. "It might be prudent to dispose of her first," he added off-handedly, as if he was talking about taking out the trash.

"Buffy Summers," the old vampire said without turning around. It wasn't a question.

"Yes, My Lord."

"Proceed."

Innokenti nodded at the female vampire. Her fear was almost tangible. She looked at her laptop screen and began to sum up her findings:

"Buffy Anne Summers, born 1981, visited Hemery High in LA, moved to the Hellmouth in 1997, attended Sunnydale High, enrolled at UC Sunnydale, grades slightly better than average. Parents divorced since 1996. Mother, Joyce Summers, died recently, natural causes - at least according to the paper trail. Father, Hank Summers, whereabouts presently unknown. One younger sister, aged 14, named Dawn. The Slayer is her legal guardian. Horrible taste in names, Buffy... Dawn... Address is 1630 Revello Drive."

The old vampire turned away from the window. "Do I have to find myself a new computer expert?"

The blonde vampire adjusted her spectacles nervously. "I'm doing the best I can, My Lord. Some of her records are difficult to access. Apparently the school where she graduated was destroyed during a demonic Ascension. The town mayor turned into a giant reptile demon and started eating the class of 1999."

"Really? And the town still exists?" The old vampire pursed his lips and walked behind her to get a look at the laptop screen.

"It seems the Ascension was stopped just in the nick of time." The woman handed him a tidy folder of printouts, most of them photographs of Buffy Summers and her family. He browsed through the folder until he came across copies of several newspaper articles. They featured grainy photographs labelled Sunnydale High showing the smouldering ruins of a group of buildings.

He gave her an approving nod. "And that story never made it into the nine o'clock news? These Yankees are better at cover-ups than I thought. Makes me want to check out Area 51, just out of curiosity. What have you got on her Watcher?"

"Rupert Giles, English, has a Green card, owns a Magic Shop in Sunnydale. Four arrests but only two convictions for petty offences in the 80s, worked for the British Museum until he moved to America to take over when the Slayer's first Watcher got killed, worked as a librarian until the High school blew up."

"Did you manage to hack into the Council's files, yet?"

"No, My Lord. I'm still trying. Their encryption codes are pretty much state of the art."

"See that you get into their system. That's what I turned you for." His tone was one of veiled menace.

"Yes, My Lord." She hurriedly bent over her keyboard. She was hungry and tired, but the fear of her master outweighed everything else.

The older vampire put the folder on his desk and walked back to the window, deep in thought, planning and plotting. He still had other sources of information at his disposal. He would question his informants, read the future in the entrails of a beautiful maiden and check his emails. Soon he'd have a more complete picture of Sunnydale. And then he'd deploy his troops.

"Innokenti?"

"Yes, My Lord?"

"It is time. Get everything ready. But keep a low profile. You have two months. After that I will come and claim the Valley of the Sun as my domain."

"What about the Slayer, My Lord?"

The old vampire smiled, even though he could feel the deadly heat of the sun's rays painfully burn his skin through the darkened panes.

"Leave her be. All portents indicate great upheavals for the future. Who knows. By the time I get there, the Slayer may already be dead."