Chapter 1

Out of Character

Tara stood in front of Giles who was now in total silence as he stood over the ashes that used to be Buffy. The pain was unbearable, he was doubled over with grief and fell to his knees. Gently, he placed his hands into the ashes and watched as they fell loosely through his fingers. He yelled in pain and got up slowly, the tears still falling from his eyes. Just when he had thought that he had been through the worst, Tara now stood over him with a second ball of fire. This time, though, it was the size of a baseball…purely for the minimal damage.

"Oh Rupert… don't look so miserable. I can't kill a man who cries."

A power rose inside Giles as did his anger at Tara, sparks also began to form on the outside of his palms. The spikes that protruded from the spell Tara had cast disappeared from sight. The surge of power that raced through Giles's body made Tara feel uneasy, and with that she backed away slowly.

"You stupid girl…she was your friend! She was your friend!"

Tara felt his power rise, making it all the more enjoyable for her as she smiled at him. Her smile was short lived as a quick and powerful blow made its acquaintance with the side of Tara's face. It was a powerful and considerable blow as was noticeable by the cracking sound of resounded from her face. Tara shouted in pain, clutching her face. The pain was almost unbearable, but it wasn't overwhelming. Tara spat out the blood from her mouth and turned to Giles with a grin on her face.

"I guess you have some bite after all Rupert…it will make your defeat all the more satisfying."

Tara waved her hand over her face but was unable to heal her face completely. Her bruised cheek still purple from Giles's assault. She clutched her body and dark sparks began to flow all over her body. After a few seconds Tara stood erect and had a look of rejuvenation on her face.

"It is a good day to die Giles."

Sunnydale residence.

Anya stood with a book in her hand, reading carefully to repeat each step of preparation that Giles had before the Tara attack at the shop. Xander lifted the slug candles and began to place them in a circle after being instructed to do so by Anya. He made a face as he got a brief smell of the slug part of the candles. Anya walked slowly over to her totebag and pulled out yet another animal skull and placed it in the middle of the candles.

"Okay, Xander, I think we are ready. Start to light the sage stick and I will begin the chant."

Xander lit a match and slowly lit the sage stick. A large puff of smoke invaded his nose and made Xander cough. It smelled really pungent to him and sort of made him feel sick just to have smelled it. He gave the stick to Anya then she began the chant.

"Ayala, Goddess of the nether. Our path is clouded an answer we seek. We yearn, we plead, let he spirit we covet appear. Our candles light the way, we implore you, let her cross."

A breeze began to blow through the room but soon fizzled out of the room, as if it had never been there at all.

"What the hell just happened?"

Anya nervously flipped through the big book and began to panic slightly, pushing Xander out of the way to adjust the candles in hope of some sort of quick fix. She groaned in frustration and threw herself on the living room couch.

"I don't understand, why didn't it work?"

Xander walked slowly over to her and sat down, placing his hand on her back. Anya flinched and hissed as if she had been hurt by his very touch. Xander removed his hand and looked at her.

"What should we do now?"

Anya looked at Xander and began to rub her temples. She picked up the book and began to read it silently to herself and quickly glanced at the makeshift altar.

"In all fairness Anya, I think that this is more important than your problems with me."

Anya scoffed at Xander's remark and slammed the book shut.

"Xander, I know this must be physically challenging for you, but could you please shut up! And the fact that I ignored you has nothing to do with you!"

Xander stood up and began to pace the room with his hands in his pockets, nodding up and down.

"I see, well maybe you should take your own damn advice. Do you think that maybe…just maybe, that you could retract your claws long enough to realize that this isn't about either of us. This is about Tara and the fact that she may not live through this whole thing!"

Silence between the two was as deafening as an explosion, Anya turned her head once again to the book in front of her. She read the book even more carefully than she did the first time around. Xander had left her side and began to walk up the stairs. The pictures of the past were haunting images of a world that no longer existed. He passed some of Joyce and some of Dawn but the one that stopped him was a picture of the original three from back in High School. Back when he was younger and Willow was still alive.

If only we could go back to that moment, back when none of this was ever in the scope of possibility. Willow was free of magic and Buffy's biggest problem was fitting a social life in with being the slayer and a student.

A tear rolled down his cheek and then began to flood his eyes as the pain of the memory also flooded his mind. To the outside world, Sunnydale was known as the valley of the sun, but to him and the rest of the people around him it was the valley of ashes.

"Xander…get down here!"

Xander exhaled in frustration and made his way back down the stairs. Anya walked over to him and showed him the book.

"Okay, what am I seeing?"

Anya pointed at a section of the book and began to explain.

"This section right here says that the purpose of this spell is for divine intervention and can only work when there has been no blood spilt by the one who is intended to be saved."

Xander looked at Anya with a confused look on his face.

"You mean…"

"Either Tara is dead or someone else is."

Xander was filled with turmoil and panic at the thought of Tara, Buffy, or Giles being dead. Giles. Did he succeed? Did Tara kill him?

"Let's go."

Xander gave Anya a look and then they both walked to the door. As Xander reached over to twist the knob there was a knock.

"Who is it?"

Xander looked through the peep hole and could see no one.

"It's me you git!"

Anger surged through Xander as he opened the door and a puff of smoke hit him in the face. Spike stood with a smirk on his face.

"What do you wh…"

A sudden hand that grabbed him and pulled him outside cut off Xander's words

"Hello pet, mummy's here."

The raven black hair that shrouded the face of the speaker became all the more clear.