From the shadows of the alley, an even darker shadow watches the couple walk past. Her Sire waits for them to come to him. She waits for him to start the game.
"Buffy's really troubled. You know how much she cares ... cared ... for Angel. Perhaps we should get her a card." Willow paused and peered into the shop window, looking past the fat cupids and hearts as if she would find a relevant card in there. "Although I guess there's no 'Sorry your boyfriend is an undead monster' card."
Willow's comments were like a punch in his gut. To distract himself, Xander gazed into the shop window. Shiny paper hearts twirled from string, giving off the occasional spark as the light hit them just right. That image is so not doing me any good, he thought. Fat cupids, looking like babies with bows, aimed arrows at the hearts. Xander let himself see the display as Slayers aiming arrows at vampire hearts and each heart as a dying Angel. "I'm thinking she should get over the caring and get on with the slaying. And that's a big 'no' on the card."
"She's been hiding herself away all week and she left the Bronze almost as soon as she got there tonight."
"As much as I could listen to you talk about my lost love all night..." said Angelus as he emerged from a dark threshold. A flash of black dashed past them, sending Willow stumbling against Xander. With a quick glance at Willow, Xander turned to follow her gaze to the alleyway where Angelus and Drusilla stood in wait. A purse? Angelus carries a purse? Xander wondered until Willow whispered, "My purse. That's where I keep my cross!"
Xander reached for his stake, concealing it behind him. As Drusilla started swaying, Angelus smiled, continued with "I really ... really ... don't want you to have what's in here," and vanished into the shadows. While he knew Drusilla was a threat, Xander's hatred kept his focus on the shadows, waiting for Angelus to resurface.
Hearing Angelus drop Willow's purse, Xander glanced over at her. Her face had gone curiously slack and she was swaying slightly. He looked up to confirm that Willow was swaying in concert with Drusilla. No no no. She's mojoing Willow, Xander thought as he placed himself between Willow and Drusilla. Shielding Willow with his left arm, Xander was relieved to see her recover from Drusilla's attentions.
"Well, well, such a pretty card shop. Do you think Buffy will appreciate that I care enough to send the very best, in dead friends?" asked Angelus as he stepped out of the shadows. Before Xander could position his stake to attack the vampire, Angelus had leapt forward and seized Xander by the jacket. Angelus' strength lifted Xander so his feet twitched about, fumbling for the ground. "I had hoped to stalk and kill you one-by-one but," Angelus' thrust shoved Xander into the sidewalk. As Angelus turned towards Drusilla, raising his arms out to his side, he continued with "one big bloodbath can really get the point across, can't it Dru?"
Sprawled on the ground, Xander gawked as Angelus twirled Drusilla off the sidewalk and into the street. Glimpsing a gesture out of the corner of his eye, Xander looked up at Willow. Seeing she had his attention, she glanced towards the alleyway and then to Xander again. Her mouth formed the words, "My cross." Xander nodded in agreement. Moving cautiously, Xander raised himself up. At her nod, they fled towards the shadows where Angelus had dumped her purse.
As they entered the alleyway, Xander's eyes adjusted to the darkness. He grabbed Willow and dragged her back just before she stumbled over a corpse. At her confused look, he pointed down. A young woman stared up at nothing. Her throat had two holes in it. Blood dripped, slowly to the ground. "Tracy," Willow replied. "She is, was, in our history class." They consoled each other for a silent moment.
"My purse; we need the cross." They frantically scanned the area. The alley was dark but Xander had heard the purse hit the ground close to the alleyway. The white purse should have been visible, even in this dim light. "I don't see it! Why isn't it here?"
"I don't know. He dropped it. It should be right here." Xander noticed a backpack, by Tracy's body. "He tricked us! We heard Angelus drop the backpack. He's stashed your purse someplace else."
At the sound of clapping, Xander and Willow whirled around to see Angelus lurking a few feet away. "Congratulations! Of the two of you, I actually thought she would be the one to figure it out." Did he just insult both of us? Xander wondered just before Angelus vamped-out and dashed at him.
Before Xander had a chance to ready his stake, his leg burst into pain. As he collapsed, he heard Willow scream, "Xander!" Peering through his pain, he saw Willow floundering backwards, trying to keep her balance.
"Hey, do you need any help?" Xander looked over to see a silver VW, slowing down. Oh good. We're saved. Don't know what the civilian can do but we're saved. Shedding his human face, Angelus snarled at the driver. Xander's eyes chased the car as it accelerated down the street.
Angelus snatched Xander off the sidewalk and bashed him into the brick wall. As the pain in his broken leg exploded into agony, Xander howled. "You aren't leaving the party so soon, are you? Just when we were getting to the fun part," Angelus snarled before slamming Xander into the wall again and again. As Angelus stopped, he whispered, "Ah, prey in the night, what music you make." Through a fog of agony, Xander barely found the energy to drag up his head only to see Drusilla draining "Willow!" he cried before collapsing into darkness.
Xander came to on the ground. Blinking away the darkness he looked over to where Willow lay, not moving, on the sidewalk. Xander started crawling towards her. Have to reach Willow. Have to save... Clenching his muscles to prevent another blackout, he discovered he'd scraped his broken leg bone against the ground. Xander carefully cushioned his broken leg with his foot. Wiping away tears, he looked at Willow. She's so still. She can't be... Unable to finish that thought, Xander started dragging himself towards Willow again. Gritting his teeth, he crawled the distance, inch by agonizing inch, and, finally, reached Willow. Her eyes. They're looking at nothing. Just like Tracy's... No, she can't be...
Xander reached out and gently caressed her cheek. "Willow?" No answer. He knew. Deep down, he knew. A pulse. Just check if she has a pulse. Everything will be OK if she just has a pulse, Xander panicked. He lifted himself up slightly. Just enough to see. Enough to be sure. NONONONONO denied Xander. As he crashed down, just a few inches to the ground, his world crashed down with him. Sobbing, he reached out to pet Willow.
Fed up with Drusilla's interference with his prey and her resulting defiance, Angelus turned to finish the hunt. Xander was sobbing over Willow's corpse. Rage overwhelmed Angelus. Damn Drusilla! She stole my prey. She's drained Willow. Xander is blind to the world. How am I supposed to enjoy killing when my prey doesn't even know it's about to die? Glimpsing movement to his right, Angelus lunged for Drusilla only to trip over her extended leg as she jerked his arm and flipped him onto the street. I've got to stop letting her watch martial arts movies, he thought before dragging himself up to confront Drusilla who was leaning, protectively, over Xander.
"Back off, Dru."
"I want a treat," she replied, twirling her fingers through Xander's hair. "You're giving that treat to the slayer. I want this one."
The slayer. Buffy. As he inhaled her name, a feeling of purity and light started to open Angelus' heart. He spat to the ground, no longer interested in Xander. Let Dru keep the boy; her pets never live long. "What do you want him for?" he asked Dru, absentmindedly. I don't want to miss Buffy finding the first of her dead friends. Dru can take Xander with her while take, he glanced at the corpse and sneered, Willow to Buffy's. If I leave Xander's jacket as well, Buffy will torment herself until she rescues him. The expression on her face when I "let" her find this mindless husk should be priceless. Lost in his thoughts, Angelus missed Drusilla's response.
"His pain," replied Drusilla, licking dollops of delicious anguish off her fingers. "It tastes like butterscotch."