Sebastian Khan looked around his new daylight retreat and was not a happy man. He didn't like it if things didn't go according to plan and having to abandon his home in the middle of the night to stay ahead of a possible raid by the Slayers definitely fell in that category.
His new home was an old turn-of-the-century mansion, just a little outside town. He had learned that Angelus had occupied a similar building during his reign over Sunnydale, not even that far away from here. With any luck the Slayers would keep searching in the warehouse district.
Khan looked up to see Henry, his third-in-command approaching.
"Ah, Henry. Tell me, how is dear Elron today?"
"Recovering, my lord. The surgeon believes he will regain full use of both arms and legs within the next two weeks."
"Good, good. Capable help is hard to find, Henry. I hope Elron will take this lesson to heart and be a better person for it in the future."
"I'm certain he will be, my lord."
"Have all the men seen the video recording of the Slayers and Angelus yet?"
"Yes, my lord."
"What is the general opinion?"
Henry took a moment to order his thoughts, then cleared his throat. "My lord, the men feel that the combination of the Slayers, Angelus, and that werewolf is a potent threat that needs to be dealt with. The majority of them would not say no to a decisive, full-scale attack on them, preferably a surprising one from behind."
Khan nodded. "Yes, I expected them to react that way. Our enemies certainly handled that attack with effectiveness and style, did they not?"
"Yes, my lord."
"To tell you the truth, Henry, a large part of me would also feel much better if we killed them sooner rather than later, but I like to believe that I am above such reckless impulsiveness."
Henry mused on that. "My lord, are you implying there will be no attack?"
"Not at the moment, Henry, no. Do not forget that we have bigger fish to fry here in Sunnydale. The Slayers and Angelus are a hindrance, nothing more. For the moment my plans are better served by keeping them alive. As long as they live they will bring distraction to our primary enemy."
Khan walked over to his desk and took out an old notebook. The pages were yellowed, but well-preserved. The chapters were numbered, beginning with 1900, ending with 1999. Each chapter held a checklist. Briefly browsing through the chapters showed that only the final chapter, 1999, still held unchecked items, but quite a few of them.
"So many things still left for you to do, Richard, my old friend. So many things to go wrong."
Henry watched in silence as Khan threw back his head to laugh, quite loudly so. Taking it in stride, he silently had to agree with Elron. This couldn't be healthy.
Buffy was not in the best sort of mood to begin with. Their attack on Sebastian Khan's supposed hideout had been a bust. Oh, it had clearly been a vampire's daylight retreat. There had been enough items left over to show that more than a few undead guys had hung out there not too long ago, not least of them the dead and drained body of a pizza delivery man. The place had looked like it had been abandoned in a hurry.
With no one to pound on for daring to attack her childhood home, however ineffectually, Buffy was left with a feeling of frustration. She had been looking forward to a quiet evening at home with Angel, but it appeared that wasn't necessarily in the cards, either, as Giles had come by and it seemed Angel was expecting him.
"Okay, you two! What's up?"
"Buffy," Giles began. "I have done a lot of research regarding your ... condition. The effects of Angel's blood on you and where it might go."
He briefly filled her on the things he had found out, the single recorded case of a human's long-term exposure to vampire blood and how it ended. It didn't sound good.
"I assume you guys have come up with a plan?" she asked the two men. "One you haven't filled me in on yet."
"I wanted to talk to you about it last night," Angel said with an apologetic air, "but some other things came up."
"Yeah, I kind of remember. So, what's the plan?"
They told her. Buffy didn't like it one bit. Angel and she drinking from each other ... it was an experience almost more enjoyable than sex. Their essences mixing, flowing into one another almost like a single organism ... for nearly thirty years (or so their estimate regarding their time in hell went) they had shared blood about every two days. Thinking that they would have to stop ...
Closing her eyes, she could almost feel the changes at work within her. Slowly, gradually, but continuously. The fangs, the eyes, everything. She was wearing contact lenses almost constantly now, which helped fool people into believing everything was okay, including herself sometimes. But things were not okay. She could feel the demon blood working inside of her. Every day.
Still, no longer drinking from Angel? Leaving all other things aside, wouldn't that mean she'd start aging again? Angel would remain eternally young, but she would grow old. Everything inside her screamed in protest at that thought. Still, was there anything to be gained by living forever if she was no longer herself?
"You guys got a twelve-step program all worked out?" she asked, trying to sound optimistic.
Giles gave her a sympathetic look. "We know very little about what is happening to you, Buffy, but we feel that a standard drug-withdrawal procedure is our best shot. It doesn't mean stopping from one day to the next. It means lessening the dosage gradually, lengthening the periods between sharings."
Buffy nodded, though everything inside her was tightening at the thought. Angel looked at her, both of them knowing that tonight it was time for another sharing of blood. Would they be able to put it off? To lessen the amount of blood they shared? She didn't know.
"I'd best be leaving now," Giles said, apparently sensing what was going on between them. "Let me know if there is anything I can do."
Giving him a brief hug Buffy accompanied him to the door and let him out, locking up behind him. Patrol for tonight was done and most of the others had to prepare for school tomorrow anyway, leaving just the two of them.
"I don't like this either, Buffy," Angel said solemnly, "but we have to do something."
"I know," she answered. Looking at her hands she could see the trembling was already beginning. "Just hold me, okay?"
Angel wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight. It was just a few minutes later when Buffy began to shake like a leaf. This, Angel mused darkly, was not going to be easy.
Faith was hanging up her newly-acquired coat when Joyce came into her room, handing her some kind of spray can.
"What the fu... I mean, what is that?"
Joyce gave her a proud smile. She was slowly but surely succeeding in getting Faith to stop swearing with every second word.
"It's to impregnate the leather. Make it last longer."
"Angel said Spike picked this thing up in '77. Looks good for a twenty-year-old coat, doesn't it? He must have taken good care of it."
Joyce's face grew a little sombre.
"Faith, I know it isn't my place, but ... you are not considering ..."
"Considering what?" Faith gave her a clueless look.
"I mean ... you told me you met Spike in the Bronze and ... well, from what you said it seemed you might ... and even now that you know he is a vampire ... are you ... I mean, do you find him ...?"
Faith, finally getting a clue what Joyce was getting at, burst out laughing.
"Mrs. S, are you asking me if I have a thing for Spike?"
"Well, ... I mean ... what with Buffy ..."
"Don't worry about that, Mrs. S. One thing Buffy and I definitely do not have in common is a thing for vampires. The idea of sleeping with one ... eew!"
Joyce gave a relieved sigh.
"Although," Faith added with an impish grin. "He did look quite yummy, didn't he?"
For a moment Joyce stared at her, then gave a grin of her own. "If he were alive I wouldn't push him off my bed."
Faith's eyes nearly popped out of her head.
"Mrs. S! You can't say stuff like that! It's just not ... it's not right!"
Joyce just laughed.
Xander was putting off going home by shelving some books in the library. Too bad the raid on Khan's daylight retreat had been a bust, but at least they had inconvenienced the town's newest big bad somewhat. It had to count for something.
He was still thinking about his interrupted non-date with Cordelia. Nothing had been resolved, nothing at all. At least not at the date itself. Something else had become increasingly clear to him that night, though.
After the fight he had seen Willow look at Oz, so proud of him for having conquered his curse to the point where he could use it to help his friends. He had seen Angel and Buffy look at each other for the hundredth time and could no longer ignore the love shining in the blonde Slayer's eyes.
It had forced him to admit one thing: He had never looked at Cordelia that way. And unless he was very much mistaken she had never looked at him that way, either. They cared for each other, yes, but love? No, love wasn't what was between them. Attraction, chemistry, a knack for getting on each other's nerves, but that was it.
He wanted to regain Cordelia's respect. He wanted her to know that she had not played second fiddle in his heart, which she hadn't. She just hadn't played a solo first fiddle. All of which left him with an interesting problem:
How did you tell a girl that you didn't regard her as second best while at the same time telling her that you don't think it a good idea to get back together?
Richard Wilkins had just heard about the sharp decline in the vampire population of Sunnydale that happened last night and wasn't pleased. Thirty vampires didn't just get themselves organized and attacked the Slayer's home because there was nothing good on TV. No, this was the handwork of a master vampire.
"What are you up to, Sebastian?" he asked no one in particular.
Things would have looked better, of course, if the Slayer and her posse had actually been killed, but that hadn't happened. Nor, he figured, had that been Sebastian's plan to begin with. What little he knew of his old friend's movements during the last century had had him lying low, staying out of trouble. Only recently had he made a name for himself. To his knowledge Sebastian had never faced a Slayer before.
Had this been a test? A stratagem to measure the effectiveness of this town's self-proclaimed defenders? If so, what did he have in mind? Would he approach them for help to take Wilkins down? Would he eliminate them before they could get in the way of his revenge? Was he planning something else altogether?
Sighing, Wilkins sat down behind his desk. Hindsight was always perfect. In hindsight, trying to kill Sebastian all these decades ago had been a mistake. Not because it was a bad idea per se, but because he hadn't done it properly. Sebastian had lived long enough to be made into a vampire and now came back to haunt him at the most critical juncture of his plan.
"The sins of our past," he murmured, looking out the window at the sleeping city. His city. Built and preserved for a single purpose. One that was now in jeopardy.
After some minutes he reached a decision. He couldn't afford to remain on the defensive in this. There were too many important tasks left for him to do in the next few months. Distractions could prove fatal at this point. No, he needed to be proactive. After all, the whole world would be a better place if a few more people got off their buts and put in some honest work toward their future. He intended to do just that. Well, except maybe the honest part.
When Angelus and the Slayer had first returned from wherever they had been off to during the summer he had tried to have them killed. It had failed spectacularly. Then, after learning of Sebastian's arrival in town, he had decided to leave them alive, hoping they would take care of his old friend. It seemed, though, that this would not happen anytime soon and his time was running out. He had a spy in their camp, the lovely Ms. Burg, but so far that hadn't born too many fruits, either.
There was nothing he could do about Sebastian right now, but unless he was very much mistaken there was a way to put a damper on the Slayer. Not kill her, no. That option could be kept open until all others had failed. Just a few roadblocks for now.
Picking up his phone he called in his secretary, the new one hired after that unfortunate night when all the demons became unmasked.
"Mrs. Zimmerman? I need to contact someone, but I'm afraid I do not have a current phone number. Would you please try and find the number of one Quentin Travers? I believe he resides in London. Yes, the one in England."
On a road leading out of Sunnydale a black Dodge DeSoto was racing along well past the speed limit, loud rock music ringing out from inside. Spike, a cigarette hanging from the side of his mouth, was singing along to Gary Oldman's rock version of "My Way", pounding the steering wheel.
"And more," he yelled, "much more than this, I did it MYYYYYYY WAAAAAAYYYY!"
Excedo Inferi continues in: All Roads Lead Back to Hell
Buffy and Angel are not the only ones who have wondered a thousand times over
what might have happened had Xander told the Slayer about the imminent return
of Angel's soul on the day Akathler awoke. Now, thanks to a vengeance
demon called Anyanka, they find out. No one will like the answer.