DOMINO 1-2-3 DOMINO 1-2-3

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters except for the ones that I created like Mercedes and Audrey.


Buffy's Headquarters

"Uh Buffy…I think you should come and look at this," Vi called out, her voice trembling mightily in fear, as she had to dig her fingernails into the railing to keep herself standing.

"Nnh…this had better be good Vi, I was right in the middle of a great dream and now here I am…wait, did someone just turn out all of the lights," Buffy sleepily groaned as she groggily stepped out of her room, using the wall for support, as she made her way towards where Vi was. When she got to the young slayers side she realized why she had been called.

"Yeah…in a big way, the whole town's dark," Xander sadly replied as he hoped to hide the fear creeping into his voice as he stared up at the very dark sky.

"You mean it's not just night…I didn't sleep all day," Buffy offered up back with a slightly feeble smile and pout as she briefly leaned up against him before standing back upright again.

"Unfortunately no Buffy, because it's high noon to be precise…it should not be pitch black out," Giles declared with a very grim frown as he nervously slid his hands into his pockets and silently stared up at the sky.

"I'm scared Buffy…really scared," Vi mumbled softly with a scared silly look in her wide eyes as she turned to Buffy, looking fully ready to pass out at a moments notice.

"You aren't the only one," Buffy mumbled out softly under her breath with a slow and deliberate nodding of her head.

"Buffy," Xander cautioned with an uneasy frown as he looked worried at the fact of what she had just said.

"Only a fool wouldn't be afraid right now Xander, Giles…what do we do now," Buffy snapped back at him quickly, clearly in no mood to argue with anyone at this point, as she started to turn back into the room and away from the window.

"We find the epicenter of this disturbance and put a stop to it, before anyone gets hurt to badly," Giles explained with an eerily calm tone to his words, as he looked like none of this was bothering him in the least.

"My thoughts exactly, Vi…assemble the slayers, have them fan out across the city and find out where all of this is coming from," Buffy agreed heartily as she headed back towards her room, loudly calling out her orders over her shoulder as she went.

"Yes ma'am," Vi stuttered and sputtered as she shook visibly in her attempts to nod her head and not run for cover out of sheer terror.


Gwen's Loft

"Red…you've got some explaining to do," Spike growled loudly with a none to pleased scowl as he stared somberly up at the sky and standing out on the balcony even though it was the middle of the day.

"What…huh, oh no Spike, I didn't do this," Willow stuttered and stammered back as her reply as she fumbled her way out onto the balcony beside Spike, staring fearfully up at the sky.

"You sure, because the last time that you went a little crazy this is pretty much," Dawn anxiously interrupted as she edged out behind Spike and used him to keep herself upright.

"I'm not doing this," Willow again argued with a slightly more defiant look in her eyes as she flashed a look of anger towards Spike and then went back to studying the sky.

"She's right, Willow's not doing this…but I want to know who is," Angel stated strongly with a serious and grim scowl, stepping out onto the balcony with his shirt unbuttoned and one arm wrapped around his heavily bandaged midsection.

"Easy Angel, your wounds aren't healed yet," Nina pleaded with a worried and impatient look of panic in her eyes as she hung onto Angel's arm and tried to keep him from pushing himself to far to soon.

"It'll have to do, what do you think Spike," Angel unhappily asked Spike as he turned to fully look at the younger vampire, only briefly glancing back up at the fully darkened sky.

"I think you were right Peaches, he's going for it all now," Spike spat back, more out of anger at the one that he held responsible for all of this than for any real anger directed towards Angel.

"I was afraid of this, I'm not sure that we're ready for this, if he's going for it all right now then more than likely he's going to have everything so heavily guarded that we'll be lucky to get within a hundred miles of the place," Angel commented grimly as he continued to stare at the darkened sky, inwardly finding it very odd to be outside on the balcony in the middle of the day.

"Okay so then what do we do about it, we can't just let him…whoever he is, win…can we," Kate demanded with a clearly irritable scowl and her hands on her hips as she meant to get in Angel's face even though a scared looking Groo was trying his best to stop her.

"Of course not, but running off into the night like a bunch of bloody," Wesley suddenly interrupted from somewhere behind them before being cut off by Faith.

"Easy Wes, I think they get the point, no need to shout," Faith cautioned him as best she could as she propped him up as he staggered into the room, leaning on her heavily.

"I wasn't shouting luv, I was merely trying to point out that it would be wise to not divide our forces, but instead in this case let the others do our work for us," Wesley replied softly as he turned his head to face her, allowing a little bit of a kind smile to grace his lips for a few moment before he turned back towards the window as someone else spoke up.

"You mean," Connor wondered aloud with a slight smirk perking up his lips, as a small light in his eyes went off appearing that he was beginning to get what Wesley was suggesting.

"We let the slayer and her allies find the cause of this malady for us, then we strike at the most opportune moment," Illyria interrupted with her usual tone of indifference as she stood suddenly in the middle of the room and stared straight ahead at Angel.

"Exactly, it's the only thing that we can do," Angel replied impatiently as he finally turned away from the sky and walked back into the main room, with Nina having her arms wrapped around him even though he didn't need her to keep him standing.

"Okay, so then how exactly are we supposed to know when they've found anything," Dawn asked softly with a curious and concerned look in her eyes as she wrapped her arms around Spike's waist and laid her head on his back.

"I've already thought of that Dawnie, I still have my backdoor password into the systems back at headquarters, anything that Giles finds out he'll enter into his computer so that he can keep it all straight, when he knows something…we'll know something," Willow explained with a proud and slightly odd smirk as she walked over and picked up her laptop.

"And then we strike," Illyria added calmly as she started off looking straight to Angel before turning her head and looking over at Willow.

"Anybody seen Mercedes, she should be," An unsure looking Kennedy asked as she walked into the room looking around at everyone, scanning the crowd in hopes of spotting the redhead.

"Who cares, we can't waste any time looking for someone that isn't worth the," Willow started to say sharply back, the venom in her words coming shining through, as one side of her lips curled up into a rarely seen sneer.

"Willow," Kennedy exclaimed loudly in more than a fair amount of shock and anger, as she took a stubborn step forward, before Kate held a hand out to stop her.

"Now's not the time for jealousy Willow, you two wanna kill each other be my guest…just wait until after we save the world okay," Angel snapped out harshly with tightly clenched fists before he physically lashed out, smashing his left fist through an expensive looking lamp.

"Angel," Nina screamed as she flattened herself back against the wall in shock at Angel's sudden outburst of violence. From across the room out on the balcony Dawn likewise let out a small shriek of fear and slid around Spike to hide, getting herself further away from Angel.

"Sorry…just call me when we have something," Angel slowly apologized as he hung his head and glanced over at Nina with some sympathy, before he winced in pain and wrapped an arm around his midsection before he paced out of the room.


The Streets

"I do not like this Buffy," Giles stated unhappily as he finally came to a stop on a corner of the street and leaned back up against the building to keep himself upright.

"Me either, but something is going to happen…something bad, unless we stop it," Buffy gasped out softly as she did the same thing that Giles had just done before sliding down into a squatting position.

"Yeah well…perhaps just this once, we can let it happen, just a little…so that we don't have to continue running around the city with all of the other crazy people," Xander managed with an almost out of breath look to him as he came to a stop from running a few feet away, with an also out of breath small group of slayers behind him.

"Crazy people," Giles wondered aloud with a curious scrunching up of his face as he pushed off of the building and turned to Xander.

"Oh yeah, New Orleans at the height of Mardi Gras doesn't have a thing on this city when the sky all of a sudden goes dark at noon," Rhona grumbled, pouring in her own two cents worth of opinion, as she crossed her arms in front of her chest and angrily glanced up into the sky.

"Be that as it may do we have any ideas about where this disturbance is centralized yet," Giles continued with a less than impressed frown before he took a handkerchief out of his pocket and began to slowly clean his glasses with it.

"Maybe we won't have to," Vi stuttered out softly with a very fearful look in her eyes as she looked rather confident and relieved at first before she instantly got scared and huddled behind Xander the moment that she realized that everyone was staring at her.

"Meaning," Buffy snapped a little more irritably than she had ever originally intended before she saw the effect that it had on the younger woman.

"M…meaning that for once," Vi started to slowly answer with for once an optimistic half smile beginning to form on her lips before her moment of triumph was usurped.

"The news actually brings some good news for a change," Xander interrupted with a slightly relieved chuckle as his face brightened up as he turned to watch the screen of Vi's laptop.

"Okay…sorry, but I don't know what you mean," Buffy pointed out looking completely lost as she stood back up and frowned.

"The local news media," Vi started to point out again with a somewhat defeated expression, keeping a carefully close eye on Xander, before once again she got interrupted.

"On the spot news here actually got something right for once, they found it," Rhona announced happily with a honestly surprised and relieved tone to her words as she looked back and forth between Buffy and the computer screen.

"Really…where," Giles asked in no small bit of impatience as he jammed his handkerchief back into his pocket and started to head towards them, wanting to see the video feed for himself.

"You're not going to believe it," Vi replied with a nervous smile and little laugh as she glanced up from the screen before blushing furiously and looking back down.

"You're right…I don't," Giles remarked out loud as he let out a garbled sigh and began to walk away, slowly shaking his head.


Gwen's Penthouse

"Okay people…let's suit up," Angel declared with a very serious look to him as he slid his duster off and began to strap on some body armor, pushing the pain that it caused out of his mind.

"It's about bloody time, been sittin around here for hours like," Spike began to mutter back, forcefully keeping himself from looking anywhere in Angel's general direction even though he knew that his grandsire was glaring heavily at him.

"Don't finish that sentence, please don't finish that sentence, it's to sick to even comprehend," Kennedy grumbled with a slightly sick to her stomach and grossed out expression as she glared a bit at Spike before resuming her picking through the assembled weapons and pieces of armor on the table.

"Well nobody asked you…now did they," Faith snapped sharply as she looked up from tying a rather large knife and sheath to her upper leg, already annoyed by the sound of the young slayer's voice.

"Faith," Wesley snapped out harshly, very nearly spitting, as he looked up from the weapons sitting on the table.

"Wes…you're…defending her," Faith angrily started to yell back at him, the venom clearly in her voice as she glared at him, before she went a step further and grabbed his shoulder tightly.

"Easy…I am not defending her, I'm simply thinking that it'd be best for you not to over exert yourself here before the real battle has even begun," Wesley cautioned with a slightly uneasy expression as he looked more than a little shaky at how angry she had gotten along with the pain that her grip was clearly causing him.

"I don't need defending," Kennedy declared loudly over the glares that she was getting from almost every other person in the room.

"You will if you keep flapping your gums," Faith added intensely as she focused her anger into a strong glare as unintentionally she began to increase the pressure on Wesley's shoulder until he could stand it no longer and hissed in pain. The look on her face at that moment was one that Angel had only seen once, the night in which she had begged him to kill her.

"Are you okay," Willow questioned, with great concern in her words, as she went to Wesley's aid while Faith could only look down at her claw-like hand in horror.

"Yeah I…I think so, thank you Willow," Wesley softly answered with a nervous smile as he tried to keep from doubling over and showing too much pain.

"Wes…Wes I, I'm sorry I," Faith forced herself to say with a scared stutter to her words as she look eerily at him, almost as if she were scared that she was going to hurt him again.

"I know Faith, you get worked up and lose yourself sometimes, I'm okay…really," Wesley replied back with as honest of a look in his eyes as he could as he in turn laid a hand on her shoulder and tried to calm her down as much as possible.

"Really…well you'd better be, because otherwise I don't want to have to," Faith began to answer with an almost lost look on her face and edge to her words before she was interrupted by Angel.

"Where's it centered Willow," Angel demanded with a highly impatient glower in his gaze as he only gave Faith a sidelong glance.

"The last place that…we should have known…I can't believe I didn't, that it took me this long to," Willow groaned out softly in response to Angel's question as she looked almost embarrassed and furious with herself, all at the same time.

"Care to share with the rest of the class there Red," Spike continued, looking as if he was simply ignoring what had just happened as he set about strapping on a stake wrist launcher, one that would easily fit in under the sleeve of his duster.

"The room, the ballroom, where we held the party that night you guys crashed the party," Willow forced herself to say slowly and clearly, even though her mind was racing a mile a minute at the ramifications of what it all now meant.

"You're joking right…why didn't we notice something, Buffy dragged us there like three times a week…I never liked that place," Dawn observed with an annoyed scowl as she slipped her coat off and flung it into a nearby chair before she looked over the weapons remaining on the table.

"Well like it or not it's where we're going," Kennedy threw out with plenty of scorn in her voice as she glared across the table at Dawn.

"Then what are we waiting for, evil is afoot," Groo proudly declared as he thrust a fist into the air, then grabbed a broadsword and before anyone could stop him ran out of the room towards the elevator.

"Uh…shouldn't somebody go after him and like…make sure he doesn't skewer a trashcan or something," Dawn wondered aloud with an oddly curious expression before she had to bite her bottom lip to keep herself from cracking up laughing.

"If I wasn't pregnant," Kate grouched out loud with a bit of a sarcastic look on her face, making it very clear to everyone that she wished that she could be out with them.

"I have a feeling that when this is all over you'll be damned glad that you weren't with us," Wesley remarked with an eerily cold edge to his words before he left the table without another word.


One Hour Later

"Okay Buffy, the other slayers are in position…man I wish Willow and Faith were here," Xander glumly stated with more than a fair amount of fear in his words as he shuddered visibly at the sight in front of them.

"Xander," Buffy snapped irritably as she whirled around and glared powerfully at him before she tightened her grip on the daggers that she wielded.

"What…I do wish that they were here, Willow with her mad magic skills and Faith's our best…okay second best slayer," Xander managed to stumble through with a very uneasy smile as he tried in vain to keep his breathing under control so as to not hyperventilate.

"Well they're not here okay, they're off running around with Angel," Buffy scoffed with a cross between a worried and annoyed sneer and edge to her words as she stared straight ahead at the pillar of light shooting up into the sky before being interrupted from behind.

"Who's off running around with Angel," Dawn asked with a confused frown as she let the barrel of her shotgun come back to rest on her shoulder.

"Dawn," Buffy exclaimed loudly with a great look of astonishment before almost by instinct she sheathed both daggers in one motion and then threw her arms around Dawn into a strong hug, before jerking back, her eyes wide and focused on the shotgun.

"Dawnie…whoa, since when do you pack heat," Xander started to say to her with a strong sense of relief in his words before his eye focused on the shotgun that she held in her hands.

"Since," Dawn started to proudly answering, looking very much like someone that had been allowed to participate in something for the first time, something that they had longed to take part in for years.

"Since never, Dawn give me that gun right now," Buffy demanded forcefully as she glared at Dawn and then started to reach her hands out to take the gun away from her little sister.

"No," Dawn shot back quickly as she took a sharp step back away from Buffy, tightening her grip on the shotgun as she did so.

"Don't say no to me, I'm your sister…your older sister, now give me the gun and," Buffy angrily stated before she again stated her order for Dawn to turn over the shotgun.

"I started packing heat ever since," Dawn said back as she tried to begin to explain everything to Buffy before Willow stepped in.

"We had our eyes open to the truth about what's really going on," Willow finished for her with a very uneasy shrug of her shoulders before nearly crying as Xander pulled her into a fierce hug.

"And just what is that supposed to mean Willow," Giles demanded with a very short on patience scowl as he repositioned a quiver of arrows at his waist.

"That we're all the biggest fools that have ever lived, we're on the wrong side Giles…just like in L.A., Angel wasn't a bad guy then and he's not now, we're the ones with our heads buried in the sand," Willow snapped back at Giles with enough force and venom in her words to cause him to take a sudden step back with a shocked look on his face, as that was certainly not what he had expected her to say, even though it felt really good rolling off of her lips.

"And you know this how exactly…for all that you know he could have had you under some kind of spell," Xander started to ask, clearly not believing a word that Willow was saying, before Dawn surprised them all and stepped in.

"Xander for once in your life would you please be nice and shut your damn mouth," Dawn angrily snapped with fire in her eyes before she took a step forward, making sure to position the barrel of the shotgun right at his chest.

"Dawn, get that away from him," Buffy nearly shrieked out in alarm as she leapt forward and pushed the barrel away from Xander before they were all interrupted.

"Well now am I to late to join in the fun," Nina asked softly with what she hoped was a tone and body posture that conveyed total confidence as she walked out of a nearby alley and stopped a few feet away, casually allowing the crossbow in her hands to lean casually back against her shoulder.

"Who are," Giles began to ask her with a heart full of dread as somewhere in the back of his mind he felt that he should know the young woman standing in front of him but at that moment he was clueless.

"Nina, what are you doing here, I thought," Willow wondered aloud being very surprised to see the werewolf, at least so soon and ahead of schedule.

"We had to change plans on the fly, things are going from bad to worse out here…in a big hurry," Nina replied with a concerned look as her air of momentary confidence looked to be gone in an instant and she instead looked very worried.

"Great…so what else is new," Dawn groaned out loudly with an annoyed scowl as she shook her head and turned back to look up into the sky at the pillar of light.

"Wait…you know her," Buffy exclaimed with an initial look of disbelief before she remembered enough and calmed down.

"Of course, she's Angel's girlfriend, makes a mean hot fudge sundae to," Dawn replied with an impatient frown, earning a slightly relieved smile from Nina, before she smiled herself.

"That may be however you of all people should know that things are not always as they seem, I think that in this case," Giles cautioned with a less than impressed tone to his words as he regarded Nina with an air of open hostility.

"That you're letting your hatred for Angel cloud your judgment," Willow interrupted him with a very stern glare before she smiled and nodded to Nina.

"I think we're to late here Willow," Nina added with a sly smirk curling up the edges of her lips before a stern look from Buffy changed that immediately.

"You're right Nina, you're absolutely right, I guess this means that we'll just have to do this without their help," Willow continued with some confidence and a slow nod of her head before Buffy broke in.

"Wait, do what without our help…somebody had better start telling me exactly what's going on here or else," Buffy demanded angrily with an impatient clenching of her fists as she started to step forwards towards Nina, almost daring her to explain herself.

"What's going on here Buffy is that unless you and Giles stop thinking only of yourselves we're all going to die for good this time and first this city and then the world is going to be destroyed," Angel stated forcefully as he stepped out of the alley behind Nina, brandishing a rather large broadsword, his gaze never once leaving the shining pillar of light that shot up out of the top of the old building.


A Little While Later

"Are you sure about this Angel, quite sure," Giles asked again, this time with a fair amount of scorn in his words, as he seemed bound and determined not to believe a word that Angel was saying, even under the most dire of circumstances.

"He just doesn't know when to quit does he," Faith grumbled out impatiently halfway under her breath as she tried not to grin but couldn't help doing it a little when she glanced over and saw Wesley smirk.

"This isn't getting us anywhere Giles, now why don't you just sit down and shut up and let the rest of us talk," Wesley grumbled out loudly with a highly annoyed edge to his words as he clearly looked more than a little weary at having to listen to Giles continue to be hard headed and disagree with everything that Angel was saying, seemingly just out of spite.

"Don't use that tone with me Wesley, don't forget who," Giles angrily snapped back as he nearly jumped up out of his chair and looked ready to fight before being interrupted.

"That's enough…both of you, ya know one of these days we're all going to have to sit down and talk about this…get everything out into the open," Buffy started to shout back at everyone in the room, almost daring any of them to speak out of turn.

"Well that'd be all well and dandy luv, but somehow I don't think that the big bad is going to give us that much bloody time," Spike casually remarked as he calmly strolled out of the alley and into the street, duster silently billowing around his ankles, as if it were all completely normal. The moment that Buffy's eyes landed on him though all that ended.

"S…Spike," Buffy mumbled out in total shock through visibly shaking lips before she started to have a little bit of trouble keeping her gaze in focus.

"It's a trick…he's the first, he has to be," Giles snapped with a very intense look in his eyes and scowl as he tried to glare a hole right through Spike.

"Sorry Rupert no luck this time, you lose…because I'm not the bloody First, I'm just as solid as you are," Spike replied with a slightly cocky grin on his lips as he walked past Buffy and over to Giles before he leaned forward and then before anyone could stop him reached up and rather rudely poked Giles harder than anyone thought possible right between the eyes. Without even being able to get a word in edgewise Giles could only feebly flail his arms as Spike poke sent him sailing back onto a nearby park bench.

"B…But you're here…you can't be here, you died, I saw…I knew you died," Buffy managed to get out nearly in a state of total shock before throwing one single punch at Spike, catching him squarely in the nose. She heard him let out a string of curse's that would make a sailor blush before her eyes rolled up in her head and she collapsed to the ground.


The Ground Floor Of A Shattered Building Nearby

"How can this be, you should be dead," Buffy weakly asked as she reached a feeble hand up to lightly caress Spike's cheek as he ever so gently laid her down onto the broken remains of a bed that had fallen down through the floor.

"But I am dead pet, have been for quite awhile to…though you knew," Spike quipped back, trying to keep his composure as stone like as ever, as if her words weren't right now at that very moment tearing his un-beating heart to pieces. It was all that he could do to keep himself from tearing up at the sight of her exquisite beauty.

"Stop playing games with me Spike, what happened, what are you doing here…how are you here," Buffy demanded with a highly impatient look in her eyes, one that told Spike that she was clearly in no mood for any of his games.

"Well luv it all started with that bloody locket that you gave me back in Sunnydale, turns out it did a whole lot more than simply bring the house down," Spike answered with a half smile curling up one corner of his lips as he fought against himself to keep from straying off into one random observation or another.

"Did Angel find you…rescue you, I wanted to look but," Buffy continued with the first idea about what had happened came to mind and she gave it voice.

"Peaches didn't do anything…he probably would have loved to have left me down there to rot…only I wasn't there, I wasn't anywhere near Sunnydale anymore, one minute I'm standing in the cellar burning like overdone crisps and the next minute I'm getting all my parts back in Angel's office," Spike laughed back with a comical chuckle as he began to recount what had happened to him those several months before in the gaping chasm that had once been the city of Sunnydale, as he tried to remain calm.

"So just like that you came back, why didn't," Buffy started to ask back in confusion with a small amount of hurt in her eyes before Spike silenced her by placing a finger on her lips, partially just to keep himself from kissing them.

"Became I came back as a damn ghost, couldn't touch or taste…hated it, but finally got myself together again, had some rather lovely adventures with Angel and his crew, even saw you in London once…stopped by the apartment to, got the dust off though…saw that we weren't welcome," Spike added with a very serious look in his eyes as a quick look of confusion passed over her face before she looked away in shame at the thought of when they must have visited.

"And then," Buffy questioned loudly, clearly egging him on so that she could learn everything that she could before jumping to any outlandish conclusions, even though several were already running through her mind at a feverish pace.

"We lost to much, everybody except for me…Angel, and Fred…who became Illyria, then Wesley came back and he and Faith," Spike admitted with a solemn and grim frown as he found that he had to look away, no longer able to stomach the look of horror in her eyes.

"Yeah…listen about that," Buffy stubbornly started to wonder back with an uneasy and uncertain tone to her words and blush to her cheeks as she asked about something that was puzzling her greatly.

"Can't say as I understand it myself, but that's beside the point, with nothin left after going up against the Senior Partners we got wind of something terrible that we needed to stop, so we came here," Spike shrugged back looking lost for a moment before he hung his head, dropping it down onto her shoulder, before he let out a very deep but completely useless breath.

"But why didn't you tell me that you were alive," Buffy pleaded with him as she pushed him back so that she could look into his eyes and see into his soul.

"I thought about it…really I did, I just thought that after making the big scene back in the basement that just showing up on your doorstep would have been a bit…I don't know, futile," Spike tried to state back in all honesty as he tried his very best to try and explain the jumble of emotions that were swirling within him.

"Futile," Buffy spat back in surprise and confusion, as she couldn't believe the words that were coming out of Spike's mouth, though that wasn't entirely a surprise.

"Yeah futile, kind of make little what I did back in Sunnydale," Spike could only offer up with another nervous shrug of his shoulders as inwardly he knew that he only making things worse by not being able to fully explain himself.

"Oh really…do you know how stupid that sounds," Buffy grumbled out harshly, pushing him away from her enough so that she could sit up and glare at him.

"Well I certainly wasn't going to say that I was scared," Spike shot back in no small amount of anger before he softened his expression and tried to rub some of the tiredness out of his eyes.

"About what…that I wouldn't want to see you again," Buffy answered looking more than a little lost and shocked, before her expression changed to one of some pain.

"No…not that," Spike grouched as he pulled away from her and sat beside her with his legs slung over the side, staring off silently into space.

"Then what," Buffy asked again, this time with a little more force behind her words as she turned and slid across the bed and stopped when she was sitting beside Spike.

"I was scared to believe you, when you said…you know, in the basement, that you loved me," Spike slowly and patiently began to say back, very nearly tripping up on every word, digging his fingernails into the bedspread to keep himself sitting still.

"But…I do…love you," Buffy sputtered back, looking surprised and a bit put off that Spike still didn't believe her when she spoke the words that she felt in her heart.

"Not like I meant luv, that's the love for close friends and such, not monsters like me," Spike forced himself to reply with a rather sullen frown as he turned his head away and tried to keep from getting angry at himself.

"No Spike, you're wrong, I do love you…I am in love with you…as more than a friend, as my champion," Buffy pointed out back with a very forceful and deadly serious look in her eyes as she balled her fists up in the front of Spike's shirt, making absolutely sure that she had his undivided attention.

"Really," Spike nearly had to choke back all of the feelings that were rapidly building up within him before she countered.

"God that was corny, yes Spike I love you," Buffy said softly, repeating herself to make sure that he knew that he hadn't misunderstood her.

"I…love you to," Spike stuttered back with the muscles of his neck clenched so tightly that it looked as if he was literally forcing his body to speak the words. The stayed there, silent statues with gazes boring deep into each other's souls, before moving together almost in complete unison with their lips fusing together.


The Battle

"I can't believe we're actually following his plan, this is ridiculous Wes," Faith snarled out impatiently as she angrily began to tap her foot on a few crumbs of broken concrete.

"I don't like this any more than you do Faith, but at least until we can figure out what's really going on here we don't really have a choice, we have to play along," Wesley stated back slowly with a deep and ragged breath as he carefully reached out and laid a hand on the middle of Faith's back in between her shoulder blades.

"What was that, why are you guys whispering," Rhona asked them with a very skeptical and unconvinced scowl, making it crystal clear to both that she didn't like being stuck with them in the least.

"It's personal…just between us, look Rhona I'd really appreciate it if you'd stop being such a nosey bitch and leave us alone, we may be forced to work together for right now but once this is over Wes here and I are out of here…for good, who knows maybe we'll find a nice quiet town and settle down," Faith angrily snapped back even though her tone at first was a very diplomatic one, before giving out more of an answer than she had originally intended to.

"Faith," Wesley started to ask in some confusion as he momentarily turned away from watching the pillar of light still shooting up into the sky to look at Faith's profile before he was interrupted.

"Hey…you can't talk to me like that, you ran out on us…off to whore around like," Rhona started to seethe right back to Faith before the older slayers fist connected with her jaw, sending the younger woman awkwardly flopping backwards into the top of a chimney column.

"Faith no," Wesley shouted out loud in shock and alarm as he wrapped his arms tightly around Faith's arms and waist and did his very best to keep her from continuing the fight.

"Come on Wes, let me go, I don't want to hurt you…just her," Faith harshly whispered back to Wesley as she began to lightly struggle against his grip.

"Stupid bitch I'm gonna," Rhona snarled as she took a step back towards them and then pulled her fist back, readying a punch, and then took a swing.

"Take a seat in the corner and shut the hell up until I say otherwise," Spike interrupted with a very clear and commanding edge to his words as he caught Rhona by the wrist and arrested her punch, glaring right back at her until her resolve seemed to soften and she relented, glaring at Wesley and Faith as she went.

"Nice of you to finally show up," Faith forced out through tightly clenched teeth before Wesley released his grip when he felt Faith's muscles slacken.

"Well I do love to keep you all guessing," Spike smirked back as he slowly walked over to the edge of the roof and stared down at the streets below.

"But we're the backup plan Faith…remember, Angel and Buffy are going to take point, we'll only come in if we're needed," Wesley tried to explain again to her as he tried his best to not let the great amount of fear in his heart show forth in his words or the tone of his voice.

"But," Spike started to object in annoyance, a cruel sneer curling up his lips, as he seriously thought about shoving a small statue off of the side of the roof, sincerely hoping that it'd hit someone.

"Knowing our luck Spike we'll be needed, something bad is bound to happen," Wesley pointed out with a deeply sarcastic and grim scowl as he shared a quick look with Faith.

"All the more reason that we should be down there with them," Faith argued back sharply, obviously not over her anger about being part of the backup crew, before being interrupted by Connor.

"But then who'd fight the Scourge," Connor asked with a highly impatient tone to his voice as he pushed open the roof door at the top of the stairs and then kicked it shut behind him.

"The Scourge, but they're not," Wesley countered with a slightly lost look as the full meaning of Connor's answer hit him.

"They're getting off ships down at the port, looks like hundreds of them, they're headed this way," Connor answered with a very serious and almost scared look in his eyes as he nervously flexed his grip on the sword and knife.

"What," Faith blurted out very nearly at a loss for words as her eyes momentarily bulged out of their sockets at the news of a new enemy.

"We have to tell Buffy," Rhona exclaimed loudly in total shock, as the mere mention of the Scourge was enough to get her knees to begin trembling slightly, before she started towards the doorway that Connor had just come through.

"Not right now we won't, don't give me that look either, pretty soon Buffy and the others will be far to busy beating the shit out of the Immortal and his goons, leaving us with a chance for a little spot of violence," Spike stated sharply with a very determined look in his eyes as he held a hand out in front of Rhona, stopping her in her tracks.

"That is the stupidest plan I've ever," Rhona started to shoot back at him with a serious glare, as in the back of her mind she wondered if she could surprise him with a stake to the heart.

"I like the plan, let's do it," Wesley exclaimed loudly with a tight clenching of his fist as he looked to Faith briefly before turning to Spike and nodding his head a couple of times.

"Wes…you sure," Faith asked strongly, her level of concern clearly evident in her tone, as she stepped in between the two men, so that she was blocking his field of vision thus making him look only at her.

"Well we certainly don't have all day to sit here and wait for them to show up now do we, if Buffy and Angel succeed in their plan there's a very good chance that they'll need a quick escape," Wesley tried to explain with an exasperated look of desperation as he pulled Faith into his arms with one arm and the whispered something softly to her so that only she could hear it.

"And running headlong into a horde of the Scourge afterwards won't help either," Spike added with a deeply divided frown as he tried to see Buffy through the darkened windows below.

"Exactly, so the best way for us to help them is to at the very least slow the Scourge's advance," Wesley further explained strongly as he let go of Faith and took her hand in his, something that surprised Spike a little and Rhona a lot, as she hadn't expected it in the least.

"Great idea, only one problem there, how exactly do we do that, even if we get all of the slayers we'd still be outnumbered," Connor countered, still clearly unconvinced by the plan, as he pointed out the first flaw in it that his mind came to.

"Exactly…so we get the local authorities to help us," Wesley chuckled back as he got to the doorway and glanced back at Spike and Rhona over his shoulder.

"What…the bloody cops, why would they help us," Spike spat back, very nearly sticking his fingers in his ears to check to see if something could have crawled in there and messed up his hearing.

"Follow me and I'll show you," Wesley replied with a dangerous smile before he laughed a little bit and pulled Faith out of sight.


The Ballroom-Thirty Minutes Later

"Just a few more minutes and this world will be ours," The Immortal proudly announced with a triumphant and zealous grin on his face as he thrust his arms up into the air like a prizefighter after a big win.

"Over my dead body," Angel declared loudly, sounding extremely happy to be interrupting the Immortal's big part, as he stepped out of the shadows, twirling his sword in his hands as a final act.

"Ooh…good one there Angel, think of that one all by yourself," Buffy chided back with an immature and slightly dopey smirk playing across her lips as she stepped out into the light, brandishing a short sword.

"What are you doing here," The Immortal nearly screamed out in anger with an intense sneer as both hand immediately dropped down to his sides and were clenched tightly into fists.

"I'd think that it would be pretty obvious…even to you, but then again you never were the brightest bulb in the," Angel started to say back, mocking him as best he could while at the same time quickly glancing around the room to check to see if any of the other hooded men in the room were reaching for a weapon.

"Buffy…what are you doing here…with him," The Immortal snapped angrily as he glared from Angel to Buffy, looking highly offended.

"I could ask you the same thing, I thought that you loved me," Buffy shot back quickly at first before allowing the hurt in her heart to come out in her tone of voice as she tried to cover up just how much she was hurting.

"I did, as much as I could love any bleached blonde little whore," The Immortal admitted with a half shrug of his shoulders before cracking an eerily cocky grin.

"Hey pal, the curtains match the drapes here, which was something that you should have already known from the number of times that we," Buffy angrily snapped with fire in her eyes as she stabbed the point of her sword into the ground hard enough for it to stay there before she pointed a blaming finger at The Immortal.

"I so did not need to hear that," Angel groaned with a slightly sickened rolling of his eyes before he held his sword up in front of him, ready for anything.

"What's the problem Angelus, it's not like you've never," The Immortal quipped with a daring laugh as he looked over at Buffy like a piece of meat.

"Okay already, can the two of you please stop talking about my hair," Buffy snapped as she angrily stomped her foot and then turned back around and pulled her sword up and out of the floor.

"You started it," The Immortal snickered with disdain as he was clearly trying to use this opportunity to mock Buffy.

"Did not you….killing defenseless women wasn't enough for you huh, you need to take over the world to," Buffy demanded with a furious look on her face as she got a good grip on her sword and looked around, almost daring any of them to attack.

"Not exactly, this pitiful world isn't worth much, it'll barely be enough to open the gateway," The Immortal laughed back as he shot a glare back at both Angel and Buffy

"The gateway to what," Angel asked with a none to happy expression as in the back of his mind told him that he wasn't going to like the answer that he'd get.

"That's something that you don't need to know, not that you could stop us…stop me anyway," The Immortal replied, looking eerily calm and confidant, as he then casually crossed his arms in front of his chest and dared Angel to make the first move.

"Let's find out then, shall we," Angel shrugged with a finally released half smile before he spun around on his heels and drove the point of his sword straight through the chest of the nearest hooded figure before the man could even utter a word.

Taking that as her cue Buffy copied suit and leapt at a nearby large group of hooded men and sliced off one of their hands. Smirking at the jokes that she could tell because of that Buffy was almost caught by surprise when the other men surrounding her tried to take matters into their own hands and converged on her. Before she could even let out a typically sarcastic retort Groo charged in, though then unintentionally tripping over his own two feet in his hurry to help and instead of using his sword to attack the hooded men he ended up knocking a number of them over.

"I thought you said that this was going to be hard," Buffy called out over her shoulder as she leapt up into the air, first to avoid a low sweeping roundhouse kick intended to knock her off her feet, before she landed a roundhouse kick of her own to the jaw of the first hooded man to get to her.

"You haven't even begun to reach the fun part yet Buffy, but I assure you it won't be long now," The Immortal declared slowly, making sure that she was hanging on every single word, as he started to take a couple of steps towards her with his hands outstretched.

"Well please tell us when you do because otherwise I might just die of old age," Angel added with a sly and sarcastic grin before he stabbed one hooded man through the chest with his sword, left if there while he smashed two other men's heads together, and then pulled it back out before that man could even hit the ground.

"We could only be so lucky," One of the other hooded men cackled before getting a fist in the stomach from Groo, causing him to double over in pain.

The Immortal looked fully ready to say something back but he stopped short and backed away into a sea of hooded figures. Unable to immediately follow him Buffy was forced to content herself with taking out as many of the hooded men as she could. The fact that all of them seemed all to eager to sacrifice themselves didn't immediately give her any pause. Angel meanwhile continued his orgy of destruction, hacking and slashing away at anything and anyone that even dared to think about getting in his way. He seemed to not have noticed the Immortal's withdrawal from the proceedings. Finally freed from having to worry about actually hurting someone Groo had become a one man wrecking crew, gleefully charging through one crowd of hooded men after another, proclaiming several of his past deeds.

"I don't want to brag but is this how things are supposed to be going…this easy," Angel asked loudly over his shoulder a few minutes later before he and Buffy backed into each other.

"This wasn't part of the plan no…maybe I should call Giles and," Buffy started to answer with a concerned look before the doors to the room were blasted off of their hinges and all of the lights went out.


Elsewhere In The Building

"What the hell was that," Xander exclaimed loudly as he flung himself against the wall and tried to solidify his position in a doorway to keep himself from falling over.

"I don't know, but whatever it was I doubt that it's beneficial to our cause," Giles answered with a very concerned look as he stopped moving forward and motioned behind him for Vi and the other newby slayers to stop and be ready for anything.

"You worry to much, come on we have to go and help them," Audrey grumbled impatiently with a highly annoyed groan as at that moment she wanted nothing more than to stab one of those around her with her sword for having been assigned to protect them.

"We are helping them," Xander argued meekly with little to back it up as he stepped out of the doorway.

"Really…how," Audrey snapped back in a threatening way as she turned around and took a step towards Xander, the point of her sword aimed directly at his chest.

"We are a strike team, we are the second wave, those that will keep the enemy from making a strategic withdrawal," Giles stated as if he were talking to a bunch of schoolchildren rather than newby slayers.

"You mean run for it like a bunch of sissies," Audrey cracked quickly as she rolled her eyes and shook her head, choosing to not wait for Giles' reply before she struck out on her own towards the ballroom.

"I think we made her mad," Vi interjected softly with a thoroughly scared look in her eyes as the mace in her hands was visibly shaking.

"Nice one Mr. G," Another of the newby slayers grouched with an angry glint in her gaze as she grumbled under her breath as she walked away, leaving Giles to call after her to come back and not separate.


The Backup Plan

"Told you they wouldn't believe you," Faith pointed out strongly as she lightly poked Wesley in the shoulder as they walked out of the police station and across the street where Spike and the others were waiting in the alley.

"It really doesn't matter Faith, because whether they like it or not soon they won't have a choice in the matter," Wesley commented back with a heavy sigh as he closed his eyes tightly because of the sudden pain in his chest and leaned back up against the wall, his breaths suddenly becoming ragged.

"Well that's all nice with roses and…Wes," Faith started to sarcastically reply with a groan before she noticed that Wesley wasn't next to her. Immediately upon seeing him in pain she lunged forward, pressing herself up against him, pinning him to the wall.

"Oh come on…we don't have time for this," Rhona snapped angrily as he rolled her eyes and turned away from Wesley and Faith still closely pressed together against the wall, her arms slowly and fearfully wrapping around him.

"I'm all for getting a little bit of action when the chance comes up but," Spike started to add with a smug but concerned look before Faith sharply turned her head towards him.

"He's pushing himself to hard Spike, he nearly passed out," Faith exclaimed in an oddly scared tone of voice as rather than looking angrily at Spike there was panic and even a bit of desperation in her gaze.

"No…really, I'll be fine, I just need a minute," Wesley weakly interjected with a half worn out look as he managed to stand back up fully and lean away from the wall a little bit, though Faith refused to give an inch.

"You need an awful lot more than that," Faith declared with a very commanding and determined tone to her words and look in her eyes as she pulled back far enough from Wesley so that she could look him in the eyes.

"Now who's the worrywart luv," Wesley cracked out amusingly with a crooked grin before with Faith's support he managed to stand fully back up, and on his own.

"Nice try Wes, you gave it your best shot but now you don't have a choice, you're going back to Gwen's penthouse," Faith replied with an unconvinced expression as she pulled one hand back and set it on her hip as she gave him a rather stern look.

"We don't have time for this, the Scourge will be here soon, and if we don't do something then people are going to die," Connor grumbled sharply in annoyance as he slowly shook his head and scowled.

"A lot of people," Rhona added with what she hoped was a look of angry determination as she took a step out of the alley and checked to see if she could see anything.

"Please Rhona I'm well aware of that, listen everyone I'll be more than happy to return to Gwen's apartment and rest after we've saved the bloody world…for the fifteenth time…or is it the sixteenth, so many times I can't even keep them straight anymore," Wesley commented, his voice noticeably stronger, as Faith loosened her grip on him enough so that he could take a step on his own.

"You can get out your abacus later, right now we need to do something about the Scourge," Spike stated sharply with a very grim and serious expression, as he looked first to Wesley and then to Faith, completely ignoring Rhona and Conner.

"Why now," Rhona asked slightly unsurely as she looked more scared than angry, nervously tightening and loosening her grip on her stake.

"Because I can smell them, they're close," Spike calmly replied, making his words all that much more chilling, before screams filled the air.


Just Off The Ballroom

"Are you sure," Buffy asked with a nervous stuttered to her words as she braced herself as best that she could and held the door shut.

"Yes, he's definitely been through here recently…and through that door," Angel answered hurriedly as he stood beside Buffy and pushed on the door as hard as he could, with both barely being able to keep the door closed.

"That's all well and good…really it is, but how does that help us," Buffy shot back with a small amount of venom in her words before her feet almost slipped out from under her but she recovered.

"Because now we know where he is," Angel offered with a nervous and optimistic expression as he kept his gaze averted from Buffy's face.

"I still can't believe that he was behind it all, I should have…I was so stupid," Buffy mumbled softly mostly to herself as she inwardly cursed herself for falling for and then believing all of the Immortal's lies.

"We can talk about that later, right now we need to figure out where he's getting all of these guys, they just seem to keep coming and coming," Angel replied after momentarily pushing on the door before he turned away and hurried to the other door in the room and tried to open it.

"But what about Groo, we just left him out there," Buffy interjected with a worried look as there was another loud banging on the door.

"He'll be fine Buffy, we have to get through this door before the Immortal gets away," Angel shot back more out of frustration than actual anger as he tried hard to force the door to open, but it didn't move.

"I don't think he's going anywhere, it looks like he was casting some kind of spell back there in the ballroom, he won't leave before it's finished," Buffy replied with a slightly hurt look to her before she was cut off by a gloved hand smashing through the door and trying to grab her. Before Buffy could even let out a shriek of alarm Angel had turned from the door, and with a loud yell, cleanly sliced the arm off at the elbow. The man howled in pain as he lurched back away from the door, blood gushing from the wound.

"Forget the door, it's a lost cause," Angel cried out over both the howls of the man whose arm he had just cut off and those of his brethren vowing revenge.

"But what about," Buffy started to get back out there was a bright flash of light and she felt something strike her in the neck, something that felt as small as a pinprick. Seconds later everything went dark as she slumped to the ground.


The Streets

"Now this is fun," Spike declared with a profound grin as he ducked under a punch of a Scourge soldier and sank his knife all the way up to the hilt in its stomach.

"We're barely holding up," Connor cried out from several feet away, as even though he had already killed several of the Scourge it was very clear that he couldn't hold out to terribly much longer.

"Forget him, when he gets like this he loses his wits," Wesley started to command with a very serious look in his eyes as he danced back just far enough away to be out of the range of a nearby Scourge soldier's fist before he raised his shotgun and blew the soldier's brains out the back of its head.

"When did he ever have them," Faith retorted with a snort before a soldier of the Scourge got a lucky shot in that cast stars across her field of vision. But being the fighter that she was she pressed on and used one stroke of her sword to lop off the fist that had struck her before using her second for its head.

"That's it, no more comments from the peanut gallery," Spike growled angrily before he hoisted one of the soldiers up over his head and then slammed it down on top of a snapped off traffic sign, driving the point straight through the middle of its back.

"I'll show you peanut gallery," Faith snapped back at him with a furious fire in her eyes before she bent over and grabbed a broken slab of concrete, finally flinging it right at Spike's head. In the end though she only succeeded in narrowly missing Connor as he was being forced back.

"Hey…watch it," Connor shouted in anger and alarm as he glared back at Faith momentarily before he was shoved back over the seat portion of a broken park bench.

"I thought you had a plan Wes," Faith shot over at Wesley, her voice dripping full of sarcasm, before she beheaded another soldier.

"I do…and it's about to come to fruition," Wesley confidently grinned back over his shoulder as he and Faith suddenly found themselves fighting back to back.

"Well it'd better happen fast because we're," Rhona started to angrily object before she was flung through a window and out of sight.

"Rhona," Connor started to scream as he got up to his hands and knees before the air was filled with hot lead. Wesley and Faith managed to just roll out of the way by hitting the ground and scrambling into the nearest alley. Connor leapt to his feet and dove through the window that Rhona had been sent through, barely avoiding the jagged edges of the window. Spike however wasn't so lucky. He had been hit by at least three bullets before he could even turn around. It wasn't until he had been struck by a few more bullets that he was finally able to stagger into a nearby alley and flop down into the sewers.


The Ballroom-An Hour Later

"Let her go," Angel demanded with a furious look of intensity as he struggled against his chains.

"Now why would I go and do a stupid thing like that Angelus," The Immortal haughtily replied as he leaned over and spat in Angel's face.

"Because you're a nice guy," Xander offered up with a scared and nervous smile as he heavily leaned forward against his own restraints, but found that they only tightened the further forward he leaned.

"Hmm…nope, that can't be it," Willow grumbled out with an almost seething look of furry in her gaze as she held herself in check, but only because one of the hooded men was holding a knife to a still unconscious Buffy's throat.

"I feel that I must commend you on your attempt to throw a wrench into my plans, however I can assure you that there is absolutely nothing that you can do to thwart me, I will succeed and rule this pathetic world," The Immortal replied to her with a very confidant and proud smile as he turned from Angel and Xander and walked slowly over towards her, casting a relaxed glance back towards Buffy along the way.

"Well ya know we had to try," Audrey declared with an awful lot of anger in her words as she directed a hard kick aimed right at the Immortal, though because of her bindings it was much more of a feeble attempt.

"Very nice…and you are," The Immortal sneered over at Audrey before he reached over, grabbed a good handful of pink hair, and gave it a quick and hard jerk. Tears appeared in the slayers eyes but she bit her bottom lip and remained silent.

"Isn't this the part where you get all cocky with a false sense of security and tell us your evil plan," Dawn pointed out with a very serious frown on her lips as she glared over at the Immortal before he took exception to what she had said and backhanded her hard across the face. Dawn spit up blood and what looked like a tooth before she turned her head away, trying to hide her fear.

"So you get off hitting defenseless women now huh," Angel snarled angrily with a very bitter sneer curling his lips before the Immortal smiled at him and then landed a hard punch right into his stomach.

"Shut up," The Immortal shot back under his breath to Angel as he pulled back and smiled greedily at everyone.

"Sir…it's time," One of the hooded men fearfully stated as he cautiously approached Angel and the Immortal, each step seeming like a chore.

"Ah yes…how could I forget, thank you…I'm sorry Angelus however I think this is where your plan ultimately fails and mine comes to fruition, I love it when a plan comes together…don't you," The Immortal replied with an almost bored shrug of his shoulders before he turned around and walked away from Angel and over to Buffy, taking her from the man who had been holding her.

"Now you will see the glory of," The other hooded man cackled happily with an ecstatic grin as he began to gloat over the current circumstances before he was interrupted from above.

"If I had a bloody nickel for every time I heard that," Spike snapped with a bitter edge to his words as he dropped from a skylight down to the floor beside Angel. Before anyone could make a move to stop him he slid a knife out of his pocket and hurled it straight at the Immortal's heart.

"No," One of the other hooded men screamed in horror before he leapt forward and to the side, right in the direction of the knife, with the blade finally ending up lodged deep in the man's chest. "Please…sir…help me," The man begged and pleaded in earnest as he clutched the knife with one hand and stretched the other out towards the Immortal. The Immortal gazed down at the man for a few moments, a look of total and complete fear on his face, before he spoke.

"Why," The Immortal asked softly with an almost lost look in his eyes before the edges of his lips began to ever so slowly curl up into the beginnings of a smirk. Before long that smirk turned into a full-blown grin.

"You bastard," Willow shouted angrily with a large amount of scorn in her words as she did her best to convey through her glare the full amount of her hate that she felt for the Immortal at that moment.

"Typical," Spike grouched with an unhappy scowl before he reached for another knife before the hooded men mobbed him under.

"Spike," Dawn exclaimed in fear and surprise as the top of his bleached blond head disappeared underneath the sea of robes and angry enemies.

"Don't worry young Dawn, after I sacrifice your beautiful sister here you'll be next, then the witch," The Immortal said soothingly to Dawn with a kind smile on his lips as he walked over to her, after handing Buffy off to a nearby ally, and politely patted her softly on the top of her head, though taking the chance to take a good long look down her shirt. Dawn looked fully ready to verbally fight back with a very scathing comment before Angel interrupted and spoke up.

"Get away from her," Angel demanded angrily as he struggled to free himself for a few moments before a number of hooded men began to strike him anywhere they could with their short clubs.

"Oh I'm sorry, I can't do that…give me the knife," The Immortal cooed down to Angel with a very mocking edge to his words and look in his eyes before he turned away and held out his hand. Moments later one of the other men set a ridiculously expensive and ancient looking knife into his hand before walking away.

"Do it now sir, do it now…please," A rather short and plump hooded man cackled happily as he clapped his hands together before even going so far as to hop up and down slightly.

"Shut up Whedon…or else I'll slit your throat from ear to ear," The Immortal growled sharply in anger as he glared across the room at the fat hooded man before he walked back over to Buffy and took her by the hair, to where it was clear that if she had been awake she would be wincing her eyes tightly shut in pain. "Now the fun part," The Immortal snickered happily as he carefully and slowly drew the edge of the knife across Buffy's throat from ear to ear. The cut probably wasn't deep enough to leave a scar but enough to draw a thin line of blood.

"Buffy," Spike howled in alarm from his spot at the bottom of the pile of hooded men, with it taking every last one of them to hold him down as he began to almost flail around like crazy in an attempt to get free. In his mind he was already dreaming up hundreds of cruel and inhumane things to do to the Immortal when he got free.

"Calm down…that was just for fun, next comes the main course, hmm…so sweet," The Immortal replied with glee as he trailed the index finger of the hand that held the knife along the cut until he brought the digit up to his lips and sucked Buffy's blood off of it. Willow and Dawn tried their best to not throw up at that point before the Immortal continued. "And here we go…goodbye Buffy," The Immortal added with an almost orgasmic grin before he reached back and drove the point of the knife straight through the middle of Buffy's back, pushing it so deeply into her that the point of the blade poked out the front of her just under the bottom of her ribcage.

"No," Everyone cried out at once in complete unison at the top of their lungs as they all struggled mightily against their bindings, aghast at the sight in front of them. For her part Buffy's eyes both suddenly burst open and strained in shock and pain before she coughed up a little bit of blood that ran down her chin.

"Now…with the blood from this knife I will," The Immortal started to say almost in a chant as he pulled the knife out of Buffy's body and held it over his head before a strong wind flew into the room and interrupted everyone.

"Die," Illyria stated sharply with a very matter of fact tone to her voice before just as the Immortal's eyes bulged wide and his mouth fell open she reared back and drove her fist straight through his back and out his chest, clutching his heart in her loosely clenched fist afterwards. Time seemed to completely stand still for several eerily silent moments. No one in the room knew exactly what to do; in fact few even dared to take a breath. Most of those in the room had their gazes fixed on the Immortal's heart in Illyria's hand. Angel and Spike were instead however riveted by the sight of Buffy covered in her own blood. Whereas at one time that sight would have filled both with nearly immeasurable glee, however now if it were possible the sight would have made their hearts stop in an instant.

"Buffy," Angel stammered out softly with tears forming in his eyes as he couldn't believe what he was seeing.

"Ah…uh," Spike could only manage to mutter incoherently, as at that very moment his usual way with words left him high and dry.

"Such weakness…pitiful," Illyria commented with a look of almost impatience as she slowly pulled her hand back through the Immortal's body, allowing it to flop to the ground. The silence was broken next by the gasps of shock and panic from the hooded men who acted like their world had just ended.

"Buffy…pet," Spike exclaimed loudly as he jerked himself free from his captors and scrambled to Buffy's side, finally gently pulling her up into his arms as he was on his knees.

"S…Spike," Buffy weakly choked out as she began to shake ever so slightly while tears poured down her cheeks, soon joined by some of Spike's own.

"Buffy," Angel pleaded as powerfully as he could as he finally managed to break himself free of his chains, allowing him to rush to Buffy's side.

"Please luv…stay with me," Spike stated sharply with an angry gritting of his teeth as he continued to hold her close in the hopes of almost willing her back to health.

"Come on Buffy don't…you're going to be okay, we'll get you to," Angel added in as he moved to her side and cautiously reached his hand out towards her, seemingly afraid of actually touching her.

"Heh…liar, you always," Buffy tried to softly interrupt with a nervous look in her eyes before she was silenced by another fit of coughing that forced more blood out of her body.

"Buffy," Angel shouted very loudly before almost literally all hell broke loose as the beam of light that had been bathing them ever since they first entered the building now went insanely out of control. Instead of simply being a beam of light shooting up through the hole in the skylight the light became like a weapon all by itself. Splitting into several separate beams they each began to flail around like loose strands of spaghetti. Spike and Angel initially made to stay where they were and try to at the very least stem the bleeding but all of that stopped when one of the beams came close enough to just graze the both of them. It felt like a splash of holy water, hot enough to cause their skin to sizzle, before they drug Buffy as fast and carefully as possible into a nearly destroyed alcove.

"Bloody hell," Spike growled angrily as one of the beams flew over his head, coming close enough to singe off the tops of some of the hairs on his head.

"Spike…get ready, I'll go out first and draw their fire…then you sneak out with Buffy and get her to a hospital," Angel cried with a very determined look in his eyes as he got up into a crouched position and waited for just the right moment to move.

"Buffy," Dawn screamed out in sheer terror as she dove down under a barely standing table and began to cower for her life.

"Don't move her…she's to…injured," Giles shouted out through the chaos as he tried to crawl forward a few feet but was stopped when one of the flailing beams of light crashed into the ground in front of him.

"Well we can't bloody well keep her here," Spike argued angrily as she glared over at Giles before the space between them was filled with flailing beams of light and the Immortals' men running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

"Spike…I know…I know what," Buffy weakly choked out with a very strained look to her as she tried not to think about how quickly her life was ebbing away, spilling out across the carpet.

"Not now pet, save your strength," Spike started to reply with an irritated edge to his words as he briefly turned and looked down at her before he had to turn away to avoid another flailing beam of light and energy.

"Spike please, I won't last…I won't make it to a hospital," Buffy began to beg and plead with Spike as she tried to reach up and place her hand on his cheek, but halfway up her strength failed her and her hand dropped back down at her side.

"Don't say that," Angel shot back over his shoulder with a scared silly and furious growl as he was in the mood to punch someone if things didn't change for the better in a big hurry.

"Spike…please, I don't want to die…not again," Buffy continued as she was to the point where her eyes were so filled with tears that she was beginning to have trouble seeing Spike clearly, at least she hoped that was the reason.

"You won't, we'll get you out of here and," Spike started to say back with as best of a reassuring tone to his words and look in his eyes as he could work up at that moment even though inwardly he believed the exact opposite of his words.

"No…Spike please, I want you to," Buffy replied with a great amount of hurriedness in her words with a look in her eyes that told Spike all that he needed to know.

"No…Buffy…no, I won't…I couldn't," Spike countered, the tone and tenor of his voice becoming more and more serious and sure with every word before she stopped him in his tracks with another small cough.

"Please Spike, I don't want to be alone again," Buffy shout out as she began to feel as if she were choking on her own blood, feeling it quickly becoming very hard to breathe.

"No Buffy…Spike no," Angel declared with fire in his eyes as he had been listening to their conversation and finally realized where Buffy's train of thought was heading, not liking it one bit.

"I…can't," Spike managed to get out through his horror at what Buffy was asking him to do to, or was it for, her.

"You have to…please," Buffy began to demand again, though this time it appeared as if it was taking what little energy remained her to even get enough of a breath to do so.

"Spike…NO," Angel roared again, this time spinning around to try and forcibly separate the two before out of the corner of his eye the nearly three century old vampire saw something that had he been alive would have stopped his heart from beating in a second. Appearing as if it was just another day like any other and that nothing of any great importance was going on Illyria calmly walked right through the flailing beams of light, not even wincing when her flesh began to sizzle and her clothes melt away. With an almost cocky smirk, that slid into an almost ecstatic grin towards the end, Illyria got to the center of the beam of light and turned to face Angel. He thought that for a second he saw her wink at him before it happened. In an instant she seemed to implode. The force of the detonation spun him in circles away from the center of the beam of light and through the nearest wall. The last thing that he thought that he remembered about that night, which could have just been his overtaxed mind working against him, was the sight of Spike's fangs sinking into Buffy's neck.




San Francisco, California-Ten Months Later

"Whoever designed this city was sick…sick and demented," Dawn grouched unhappily as she slung her book bag off of her shoulder and unceremoniously dropped it onto the table in front of her.

"True…though you know most of it is because of the lay of the land, there were always hills here," Xander commented softly with a forced relaxed tone to his words as he glanced back at her over his shoulder as he was in the middle of trying to boil some water.

"So," Dawn grumped back sharply even though it was clear that she knew that she had already lost the argument, but didn't want to admit it openly.

"Any news about Buffy…or any of the others," Willow asked with a worried but hesitant tone to her words as she tried to hide how lonely she felt. The second that Illyria had imploded they had all been ripped from that spot in the city, no matter where they were standing. When Willow woke up a few moments later she only saw herself, Giles, Xander, and Dawn nearby, with no knowledge where the rest were or even if they were still alive.

"Sorry Willow, I tried to get something out of Giles but…ever since Rome," Dawn started to answer with a somber shrug of her shoulders before she found herself unable to finish the thought, letting her voice trail off at the end.

"Don't worry Dawnie…we'll find them…Buffy to, she's survived worse," Xander tried to say to bolster all of their spirits, wishing that he had something like attending college like Dawn to take his mind off of what had happened to Buffy and whether or not she was still alive.

"Yeah but," Willow began to object with a nervous smile as she brushed some hair back behind her ear, before Xander spoke again.

"No buts…now who wants to come over here and help me make dinner," Xander interjected quickly in an attempt to keep the conversation moving before both women reluctantly agreed to help.



"I look like an idiot," Faith snapped impatiently as she joined him at the table, allowing him to pull out the chair for her.

"Faith," Wesley replied softly with a cautionary tone to his words as he walked back around to the other side of the table and sat down.

"I look like an idiot…and I'm cold," Faith shot back as she gave a quick look around the room and grimaced at the goosebumps appearing on her bare shoulders.

"Faith," Wesley again stated, his voice this time a little louder, as he tried to keep her calm and get her to relax a little.

"My feet hurt, my back hurts, I haven't had a drink in months," Faith continued to grumble unhappily as she glared at the others in the large room, all obviously enjoying themselves.

"Faith," Wesley pouted with an annoyed scowl that he hoped would only last a short time as he also looked around the room, but he was making sure that no one was noticing their conversation.

"What," Faith demanded impatiently before she snatched up a menu and disappeared behind it, intent on not looking at Wesley again for a lengthy amount of time.

"You're a new mother Faith, things like that are meant to happen," Wesley forcefully replied with a calm tone to his words as he too picked up his menu and took a look.

"And this," Faith shot back with a curious and unhappy frown as she lowered her menu enough so that she and Wesley could look at each other, before she raised a hand to her head and brushed a few blonde locks off of her face.

"We have to try and blend in, keep a low profile, at least until we can figure out what happened to the others," Wesley answered softly to her under his breath as he leaned forward over the table and tried to look as if he were simply asking her about what she was going to order.

"I know that Wes I'm not an idiot," Faith replied under her breath, though how she said it made it sound more like an insult than a simple answer.

"I know that Faith, but this is the first time that we've been out together since Hope was born, we were lucky to find a babysitter that we could trust on such short notice," Wesley said with a tired but happy smile as he continued to try to appear as if they were out on a date.

"I know…but it's just creeping me out…waiting here like a…like a…normal couple, while everyone else is out there and," Faith nervously replied as she went back to looking at the menu, even though she only doing it for appearances.

"I'm aware of that Faith, once Hope is old enough to travel safely we'll head out to try and find everyone…now please try and relax and maybe even enjoy yourself a little," Wesley told her with a hopeful look in his eyes before he switched to a look that he knew that Faith couldn't object to. She tried to a couple of times before she calmed down and the two spent the rest of the night trying their best to have fun.


Southeast Asia

"You all right," Nina wondered aloud with a curious look in her eyes as she propped herself up onto her elbow and stared at Angel.

"If I said yes would that stop you from worrying," Angel replied with a tad harsher tone to his words than he wanted, and when he turned away from the window and back to the bed he could see Nina looking worried.

"Well you didn't have to react like that, it's not my fault that it's just the four of us here and that there's some funky spell keeping us here," Nina shot back with an obviously hurt look to her as she pulled the blanket back up over herself, covering herself back up as she was naked due to the heat.

"Connor and Audrey are okay…not sure I approve of them sharing a room, but…," Angel shrugged back nervously as he shook his head and then looked back out of the window.

"He has to grow up sometime, at least now you can keep an eye on them, now come back to bed," Nina answered him with a sympathetic tone to her words before she pulled the blanket back, just as he slowly climbed back into bed beside her.


The Heart Of Africa

"Ah…that was…that was," Mercedes moaned out happily with an exhausted tone to her words as she slid off of Spike and collapsed beside him, both lying flat on their backs and staring up at the large tents ceiling.

"Think we ruined anybody's day luv," Spike asked with a playful snicker as he glanced over at the newly dyed redhead, both dripping with sweat.

"Hopefully, but isn't she supposed to come out tonight," Mercedes offered with a suddenly nervous look to her before she sat up and wrapped her arms around her knees after pulling them up to her chest. Having a soul had surely made her see things differently, with in her mind believing that it had brought her closer to Spike than ever before. The idea of sharing him with Buffy at first had been something that she hadn't even wanted to consider. But after only a few nights of the three of them sharing a bed she had changed her mind. Now the new blonde vampiress was undergoing the trials to get her own soul back. They had been waiting for almost a week, waiting with a local tribe that knew what they were and why they were there. The shaman had somehow brought them fresh blood ever day, just enough for them to survive on, though they were sure that none of it was human.

"Yeah…once she does though we'll have to help her get through the shame and everything else before we take her home, Dawn and the others must be worried sick by now," Spike answered softly with an anxious expression before he reached over and grabbed a glass of blood, draining it in one sip.

"Yeah, but are they really going to be okay with her being a vampire now, and Willow's not going to want to see me, she and Kennedy split up because of me," Mercedes pointed out quickly with a depressed frown as it was clear that she still had some feelings for the young slayer.

"Red will get over it, she won't have a choice, now come on…let's go see if it's over," Spike commented with a matter of fact tone to his words before he got up and put on his clothes. He gave her one more short look of support before throwing the door open and striding out into the night.