The riot fires blaze bright against the midnight sky; the piercing sounds of shrieking motorcycle tires and breaking glass assault them from every angle. From the darkness of the graveyard, three figures move in tandem into the orange glare of the streets. Two blonde women; one pale and silent as the moon, seemingly untouched by the carnage around her; the other manic, jittery, her eyes darting from noise to noise, poised for flight.
The man they flank has his arms full of sobbing redhead, her ashen face marked with smeared lines of blood.
"Hospital," the man says. He seems stunned, saddened; he has eyes only for the girl in his arms. "We have to get her to a hospital."
The second blonde draws her coat around her. "I don't think it's safe, Xander. Won't that be one of the first places they loot? With the... blood, and all? Maybe we should just... just take her back to the house?"
"It didn't work," the redhead keens. She has repeated this for the last twenty minutes.
There is another loud crash; a group of demons have overturned a Volkswagen Beetle.
"House, house, I'm definitely thinking house..."
"And I'm thinkin' not," says a voice behind them. They whirl; two more figures have joined them, a young girl and a man in a black leather trenchcoat. It is the man who has spoken; he watches the carnage with a predator's eye.
"They've taken over the street -- an' they've trashed the Bot," he adds. "Ripped her to pieces. I say we make for my crypt. They won't be lookin' for humans in the graveyard."
"It didn't work," the redhead moans.
"What's Red rabbitin' on about?"
The other man sighs. "We'll tell you when we get there."
Three Years Later
She is hunting.
She can feel them; their presence sends a trickle of cold down the back of her neck, and she clutches the wooden stake tighter in her glove.
She is sleek, like a panther; clad in black vinyl from neck to sturdy shoes. Vinyl is good; it slips through the fingers, it does not give the enemy purchase. Blood washes off it easily. So does dust.
She makes a lot of dust.
She springs on top of a dumpster, her head cocking as she opens her senses to them, a slow smile spreading over her face at the rapid beating of her heart, the thrill of the chase, the thrill of the death. Their death. She is coming for them; the bringer of death to the dead.
She could be beautiful; there is grace and symmetry in the bones of her face. She has no interest in beauty beyond that of the crunch of a blade, the hiss of the last breath. Her blonde hair is shorn to her scalp; hair is a liability. Hair can be grabbed, can be pulled. She scrubs the bloody dust from her body each night, dresses her wounds; these are her only concessions to vanity.
There are three of them. But not for much longer.
She is a blur, a swirl of darkness in the alley, punches and kicks flying. The alleyway swells with the percussion of the pain she deals; within one minute, all three are dust.
She wipes it from her eyes. She does not say a word.
Since he came here, he's been seeing her everywhere.
He'd thought Sunnydale haunted by ghosts; he'd thought London would be a refuge... but he thinks he sees her, has seen her, ever since he arrived, flickering in the corners of his vision. She doesn't belong here, even as a ghost; as many times as she's teased him for being British, he can't even imagine her on the island.
Just a random girl, then, a girl with a misfortune of bone structure and green eyes and catlike grace. A grief mirage he'd painted on a stranger.
"Is this your family, then? You don't mention them much."
Giles turns to Melinda, hiding the pain in his smile. It's only a half-lie, isn't it? They are, after all, his family... even if it took quite a bit of maneuvering to make most of them legally so.
"So?" Melinda holds up the framed photograph. "Going to introduce me?"
"Ah, yes." Giles takes the photo, his fingertips tracing over the glass as he tries to remember to do this in a logical order. "Ah, well, the two chemical blondes are my son and daughter, William and Anya."
"William looks a bit of a punk."
"Believe it or not, he calls himself 'Spike'." Giles is shocked at how paternal his soft noise of disgust is. Either he's getting better at this, or the obnoxious undead boy has been growing on him behind his back.
Giles, to his horror, suspects it might be the latter.
He points out faces. "William's wife Tara... Anya's husband Xander... and my granddaughter Dawn."
"And the blonde?"
"In the other pictures."
"Ah. That is William's first wife. She is... deceased."
"You have a lot of pictures of her..."
"She was a... protege of mine. It's how she and William met."
"You loved her a lot. I can tell."
"Buffy was... very special."
Half a bottle of very good whiskey, two hours in the darkness, and Melinda is gone, and a considerably more disheveled Giles pads back into the study, taking the picture in his hand once more. The other hand pours another tumblerful, and Giles sips, remembering.
"Spike!" Dawn shrieks, stretching her hand towards him, as the gurney wheels past doors marked 'No Admittance'.
"Sorry, guy," the orderly says, hand on Spike's chest. "No one but family past this point."
"I'm her brother," Spike lies. "Look, she needs me, she's screamin' for me!"
"No, I don't bloody have I.D.! I was..."
"Well, sir, you don't 'bloody' sound anything like her brother. Or look like her brother. So unless you have some I.D., you're just going to have to wait out here."
The orderly looks past Spike, "Any of you actually related to her and can prove it?"
The Scoobies exchange unhappy looks.
"Because we're going to need a parent or guardian to sign her forms."
Twenty-seven demons had died that night... necks snapped, hearts ripped out, and Giles rather imagined that every one of them had been wearing the orderly's face in Spike's mind.
The plan had been Dawn's; she'd come downstairs with a little family tree drawn on notebook paper clutched in the hand without the cast, a plan to ensure that all of them had legal rights to all of them.
It hadn't just been Tara who'd looked wistfully at the space on the couch where the redhead ought to be.
In the end, forging the documents had been shockingly easy; Spike had reluctantly placed a call to Angel, and within a day, the power of Wolfram & Hart had won Giles two annoying, demonic, properly papered children.
Other parts had not been so easy.
"Oh, Spike," the BuffyBot gushes, "This is the happiest day of my life!"
"Someone tell me RoboBint has a mute button," Spike growls.
"Um, Spike?" Dawn says gingerly, camera in hand. "You should, um, kiss her. Y'know, for the 'Kiss the Bride' part..."
"Yes, kiss me, Spike! You look so handsome in your tuxedo. I wish I still had arms so that I could wrap them around you!"
Spike growls, takes a deep, unnecessary breath, and kisses the Bot. Dawn's flash turns them white for a moment.
"Oh, Spike! I've missed you so much, and now we'll be together fore..."
The Bot suddenly slumps; Spike has reached beneath her wedding dress and disconnected her from the car battery.
"We could really use some more pictures..." Dawn says.
Spike's voice is rough. "We've got enough."
Spike carries the limbless, lifeless torso of the Bot across the church, jumper cables trailing from beneath the empty skirt of her wedding gown, the clips at their ends bumping against the red carpet of the aisle as they drag. He slams her face-down on the altar, roughly undoing the buttons on the back of the wedding dress. Tara will need it.
"Now, now, Spike, that's no way to treat your new bride," Xander jokes.
When Spike's head whips around, revealing his tear-stained face, Xander does an amazing thing... he shuts up.
Giles' eyes widen, his spine tensing; while he does not have his former Slayer's "spidey sense", as she bizarrely called it, he has the human version; the feeling of being watched.
Vampires, he guesses; brand new ones. There is a smell of earth here that does not belong on the city streets... grave dirt.
Giles reaches in his pocket for the stake he is never without.
And suddenly, familiar sounds; punching, kicking, the creak of leather. They move into the light; three of them, attacking one small young woman.
Giles raises his stake... and lowers it again.
The young woman is doing fine, better than fine -- the vamps are dust before a minute can end. She moves like a predator, all business, each blow an intended kill.
Another Slayer? Giles' heart sinks. The existence of another Slayer can mean only one thing -- the Council has finally succeeded in killing Faith. Giles feels a perverse little stab of pride at how many years it took them to do it.
Might as well introduce himself.
"Slayer?" he calls, stepping into the light.
The girl does not turn, continuing to walk away.
"It's all right, dear -- I'm a Watcher. Or, I used to be. For the Slayer before you."
The girl turns. Giles' heart stops.
"Buffy?" he whispers.