Author's Note: For those who are wondering, I purposefully left the Angel vs Riley moment vague because I wanted readers to let their imagination run wild. So picture the most frightening, mortal fight in existence, and you have some idea of what happened to Riley!
When I was first writing this, I had planned not to refer to the original at all. Instead I would make the Scoobies dream of the canon of Btvs so far, and then end with a cliffhanger that would form the arc of Season 5. I planned to eliminate Dawn,by making Buffy and Angel have a child plunging Seasons 5 and 6 into a very dark place. Then I saw Wood in Season 7, and the idea of slayers not able to have children went boom.
I wasn't too sure about the whole arc to begin with, mainly because I knew the B/A baby thing had been done and wasn't original. Then, a few weeks ago, I started watching the whole of Btvs again. And when I got to Season 5, I realised there was another way to deal with the Dawn character. So I scrapped my previous plan and rewrote the rest of the series.
And how does this apply to this episode? Well, with the help of the excellent thesis to Restless in the Watcher's Guide Vol. 3, I wrote a plot that closely resembles the canon, with necessary rewrite of the symbolism for my future plans for the series. Enjoy.
The Mansion on Crawford Street was a quiet contrast to the chaos of the underground laboratories of Lowell House only hours before. After the victory over Adam, the gang had been forced to exit the place rapidly as the frat house went down in flames. Angel and Buffy's place was a large enough sanctuary for all concerned, as well as being the nearest safe-house from the campus.
"Dinner is served," Xander announced as he and Angel entered the double-height living room from the kitchen. "And my very own recipe."
"Ooh, you pushed the button on the microwave that says popcorn?" Cordelia asked as she took a handful.
"Actually, I pushed defrost, but, um, Angel was there in the clinch." He snagged a place on the stone floor in front of the sofa. "Let the vid-fest begin."
Jenny rose up at that moment, causing a free space on the soft furnishing, which he quickly grabbed.
"Control problems?" Joyce sought to confirm sympathetically as she rose too.
Jenny nodded. "And tiredness." She looked towards their host, who nodded. "Feel free, there's empty rooms on the second floor."
Buffy turned to her mother. "You're welcome to crash here too, you know."
"No, you guys have your fun," Joyce replied. "I'm awake enough to get home. I can't believe you're not exhausted. Have you even slept since..."
"Still feel a little bit too wired," Giles answered.
Willow nodded in agreement. "Mm. Yeah, that spell, that was, that was powerful."
"Don't think I could sleep," Buffy remarked from her place in Angel's arms.
"Well, we got plenty of vids," Xander affirmed, as he reached into the bag to retrieve his first choice. "And I'm putting in a preemptive bid for Apocalypse Now, huh?"
Willow scowled. "Did you get anything less heart-of-darkness-y?" She asked as Joyce made her exit.
Xander rushed to his film's defence. "Apocalypse Now is a gay romp! It's the feel-good movie of whatever year it was."
"What else?" Buffy asked determinedly.
Knowing from her tone that he would loose the battle, Xander accepted defeat and began emptying the bag. "Don't worry. Got plenty of chick-and-British-guy flicks too. These puppies should last us all night."
Yet, as the FBI warning came upon the screen before the opening credits of the first film, the tiredness which all the Scoobies claimed was non-existent, came into being, leaving them with eyes closed and minds far, far away.
"I think it's strange. I mean, I think I should worry that we haven't found her name."
Willow looked up from her work to meet her boyfriend's face. "Who, Miss Kitty?" Before the big battle with Adam, they had spoken of getting a cat, who was now playing with a ball of red yarn. However, Willow couldn't remember actually buying the feline.
"You'd think she'd let us know her name by now," Oz continued.
"She will," Willow found herself answering confidently. "She's old enough to choose one of her own. She'll let us know when the time is right."
"You're not worried?" Oz asked her.
"I never worry here. I'm safe here."
"They will find out, you know," Oz remarked. "About you."
"Don't have time to think about that," Willow replied as she refilled her ink brush. "You know I have all this homework to finish," she added, gesturing at the writing upon his back.
"Are you gonna finish in time for class?" Oz asked her.
Willow continued to write. "I can be late."
"But you've never taken drama before." He reminded her. "Might miss something important."
"I don't wanna leave here," Willow confessed after a moment.
Willow rose from the bed and went to open the red curtains which were covering the window. "It's so bright. And there's something out there," she added.
Concerned, Oz joined her at the window, where, in the desert, they could see a shape, too far away to define what it might be, moving primitively through the mounds of sand.
Somehow, Willow found herself walking down the locker covered hall of Sunnydale High. Before she had time to ponder over who had rebuilt the place, she descried Xander and Anya walking towards her.
"Hey." The former called out.
"Hey, guys," Willow felt herself reply as she continued to walk.
The couple fell into step behind her. "Heard you're taking drama," Anya remarked.
"Uh-huh." Willow confirmed.
"It's a tough course," the former vengeance demon warned.
"You took it?" Willow asked her.
"Oh, I've been here forever," Anya answered mysteriously grand.
"So whatcha been doing?" Xander asked.
A bell rang, making Willow stop trying to open one of the lockers. "I'm gonna be late."
Somehow she found her way to the drama area, and entered the back stage dressing rooms, confused by the rows of costumes and people changing into them.
A Swedish milkmaid once known as Harmony ran up to her. "Isn't this exciting? Our first production! I can't wait till our scene! I love you! Oh!" She hugged the redhead wiccan briefly. "Don't step on my cues."
"Production?" Willow found herself echoing.
Buffy ran in just then, clothed in a costume more suited to the musical Chicago and a strange contrast to Harmony's. "Ohmigod. The place is packed. Everybody's here! Your whole family's in the front row, and they look really angry," she said, cheerfully.
"There's a production?" Willow tried again.
"Oh, somebody's got stage fright," Harmony cried gleefully.
"Isn't this the first class?" Willow sought to confirm.
"Well, you showed up late, or you'd have a better part." Harmony informed her.
"Your costume is perfect," Buffy assured her. Suddenly she dropped her voice to a whisper. "Nobody's gonna know the truth. You know, about you."
"Costume?" Willow queried, still confused.
"You're already in character! Oh, I shoulda done that!" Disappointed, her best friend turned away.
"But how come there's - I mean, I was given to understand that a drama class would have, you know ... drama class. I mean, we haven't even rehearsed!"
"Well, maybe some people haven't," Harmony countered.
"I just think it's really early to be putting on a play. I, I don't even know what...," Willow trailed off as a horrible thought occurred to her. "This isn't Madame Butterfly, is it, because I have a whole problem with opera."
"All right, everyone!" Giles suddenly cried, clapping his hands. "Pay attention! In just a few moments that curtain is going to open on our very first production. Now, everyone that Willow's ever met ... is out in that audience, including all of us. That means we have to be perfect. Stay in character, remember your lines, and energy, energy, energy, especially in the musical numbers!"
Willow's focus was not on his speech, but on the mysterious shape, the same one which had been roaming the desert before, and which had now suddenly appeared to be roaming the stage. She could see more of it now, enough to determine that it was a woman, covered in clay, with black, neglected hair and clawlike nails. "Did anyone see that?" She asked softly.
Giles, like everyone else, did not hear her question. "Acting is not about behaving, it's about hiding. The audience wants to find you, strip you naked, and eat you alive, so hide." He paused here, but only to address Harmony, who was in game face behind him, her fangs near his neck. "Stop that. Now, costumes, sets, and props. It's all about subterfuge. Now go on out there, lie like dogs, and have a wonderful time. Now, if we can stay in focus, keep our heads, and if Willow can stop stepping on everyone's cues, I know this'll be the best production of Death of a Salesman we've ever done. Good luck everyone! Break a leg!" And with that, he pushed through the crowd to leave.
Willow frowned and walked away from the excited crowd of her friends and enemies. She encountered a man by a table, filled with cheese.
"I've made a little space for the cheese slices," he whispered to her.
Still confused, Willow walked past him into the dark space between the curtains before the stage. Suddenly she encountered Tara in a beam of light.
"Things aren't going very well," Tara seemed to guess.
Grateful to find someone who appeared to understand, Willow spoke. "No! This drama class is just ... I think they're really not doing things in the proper way, and now I'm in a play and my whole family's out there, and ... why is there a milkmaid in Death of a Salesman anyway?"
Tara frowned. "You don't understand yet, do you?" She softly sought to confirm.
"Is there something following me?" Willow asked her.
"Well, what, uh, what should I do? The, the play's gonna start soon, and I don't even know my lines."
"The play's already started." Tara corrected. "That's not the point. Everyone's starting to wonder about you. The real you. If they find out, they'll punish you, I ... I can't help you with that."
"Well, what should I ... what's after me? Is it something I-I was supposed to do? W-was I supposed to-"
"Shh," Tara interrupted her nervous babbling, concerned suddenly.
A buzzing noise reached Willow's ears. "What was that?" She turned in what she thought was the source of the sound, only to find darkness. She turned back, and found Tara gone. "Tara? Tara, okay, this really isn't fu-"
Her words were cut off by a blade suddenly slashing through the curtains, just past her face. Willow screamed, and tried to back away, but the blade struck again, gashing her palm and making her stumble to the floor.
"Will!" A familiar voice cried, and two different hands reached through the curtains to pull her to safety.
"Buffy! Oh god," Willow cried in relief.
"Come on," the slayer, now out of her costume and back into normal clothes, guided her through the curtains into a classroom. "Stay low. What did it look like?"
"I don't know. I-I don't know what's after me." Willow tried to assure her friend.
"Well, you must have done something," Buffy mused.
Willow shook her head. "No. I never do anything. I'm very seldom naughty. I, I just came to class, and, and the play was starting."
"Play is long over." Buffy looked at her strangely. "Why are you still in costume?"
"Okay, still having to explain wherein this is just my outfit."
"Willow, everybody already knows. Take it off."
Anxious not to add naked in a classroom scenes to this already frightening nightmare, Willow protested. "No. No. I need it."
Her best friend just rolled her eyes. "Oh, for god's sake, just take it off," she remarked, before spinning her round and proceeding to do just that. "That's better. It's much more realistic."
Willow glanced down to find herself in the outfit she had worn the day she met Buffy; grey pinafore frock and a white lined shirt. Even her hair was the original length she had possessed back then.
"See?" Harmony remarked, causing Willow to notice that the previously empty classroom was now full of students. "Isn't everybody very clear on this now?"
"My god, it's like a tragedy," Anya uttered next to her. "It's exactly like a Greek tragedy. There should only be Greeks."
Suddenly it was there again, her attacker. The dark, dirty hands pounced on Willow as she leaped into the classroom from the ceiling. Her arrival and her attack was unnoticed by the rest of the class. Willow tried to call out, but the hands surrounded her neck and began to suck the breath from her.
On the sofa at the Mansion on Crawford Street, Willow's sleeping body was choking too, as she continued dying in her sleep.
While his best friend was still gasping for air, Xander became awake, and sat up from his place on the sofa. "I'm awake. I'm good," he uttered, even though no one had inquired. "Did I miss anything?"
"Not very much at all really," Giles answered, munching popcorn.
"Bunch of massacring," Buffy added, also munching.
Xander turned to the screen, where a soldier was marching through a jungle.
"We gotta keep going, men," he said. "We gotta take that hill. Damn this war! Men? Oh my god, what's happened to my men!"
"I have to say, I really feel that Apocalypse Now is overrated," Angel remarked through bites of popcorn.
"No, no. It gets better," Xander protested. "I remember that it gets better."
Buffy held out the dish to him. "Want some corn?"
"Butter flavour?" Xander asked.
"New car smell."
"Cool." He leaned across to take a handful, brushing a sleeping and struggling for breath Willow. "What's her deal?" He added.
Buffy shrugged. "Big faker."
"Oh, I'm beginning to understand this now," Angel remarked. "It's all about the journey, isn't it?"
Xander rolled his eyes. "Well, thanks for making me have to pee." He rose up from the sofa.
"You don't need any help with that, right?" Buffy asked.
"Got a system," Xander added.
"Don't use ours," Angel called out.
"Wouldn't dream of it," Xander called back down. "Don't want to give myself anymore nightmares."
He headed to the spiral staircase that led up to the second floor. Opening one of the doors to the one of the guest ensuites, he found himself instead in the off campus house that he, Anya, Cordelia, Willow and Oz shared.
The house was dark, and silent, save for the pounding on the front door.
"I didn't order any vampires," Xander called out loudly, only for the pounding to increase in noise level. He backed away. "That's not the way out," he added, before turning and heading for the back door.
Outside, he saw that there was no need to worry about the vampires, for it was daylight in Sunnydale. Confused, he walked up to the playground ahead of him, to find Giles and Spike swinging on the swings, and Buffy building castles in the sandbox.
"Hey, there you are," he remarked.
"Are you sure it's us you were looking for?" Buffy asked him.
"Giles here is gonna teach me to be a Watcher." Spike suddenly said. "Says I got the stuff."
"Spike's like a son to me," Giles remarked.
"That's good," Xander found himself answering. "I was into that for a while, but I got other stuff going on." He glanced away from them to the sight of the Bronze behind. "You gotta have something. Gotta be with moving forward." He paused, suddenly concerned. "Buffy, are you sure you wanna play there? It's a pretty big sandbox."
The sandbox in question had suddenly changed into a desert.
"I'm okay," Buffy assured him. "It's not coming for me yet."
"I just mean you can't protect yourself from some stuff."
"I'm way ahead of you, big brother," Buffy remarked.
"Brother?" Xander echoed, confused.
"Go on, put your back into it!" Giles directed Spike at the swings. "A Watcher scoffs at gravity."
A door began rattling, making Xander turn to the entrance of his nightclub. "There's something coming for me." He backed away, only to bump into someone.
The man held up his cheese slices. "These will not protect you," he said.
"Giles," Xander pushed past the cheeseman to find himself in the hall of Sunnydale High. The watcher was leaning against wall, holding an apple.
"Xander, what are you doing here?" He asked.
"What's after me?" Xander countered.
"It's because of what we did, I know that," Giles answered, before a taking a bite of his apple.
"What we did?" Xander repeated.
"The others have gone on ahead. Now, listen very carefully. Your life may depend on what I'm about to tell you. You need to find the house where we're all sleeping. All your friends are there having a wonderful time and getting on with their lives. The creature can't hurt you there."
Xander however, had understood not a word from 'you need,' for Giles had slipped into French. "What? Go where? I don't understand."
"Oh, for God's sake this is no time for your idiotic games," Giles yelled, still in French.
"Xander," Anya said, suddenly appearing. She spoke some more, but her words were also French. "You have to come with us now. They're waiting for you."
"That's what I've been trying to tell him," Giles affirmed in the same language.
"Honey, I don't... I can't hear you," Xander appealed to his girlfriend.
Anya took his hand. "It's not important," she assured him in French. "I'll take you there."
Giles took his other hand. "Let's go."
"W-wait! Where we going?" Xander queried as other hands grabbed him. "Where? Hey! Let go! Hey!"
The hands dragged him, helplessly into the darkness of a forest, then into the darkness of a room, lit only a by fire.
"Where are you from, Harris?" A voice spoke in the darkness, sounding an awful lot like Principal Snyder.
"Well, my off campus house, mostly," Xander replied.
"Were you born there?" Snyder asked.
"I walked by your guidance counsellor's office one time. A bunch of you were sitting there ... waiting to be shepherded. I remember it smelled like dead flowers. Like decay. Then it hit me. The hope of our nation's future is a bunch of mulch."
"You know, I never got the chance to tell you how glad I was you were eaten by a snake," Xander uttered, before wishing he hadn't.
"Where are you heading?" Snyder asked. "Your time is running out."
"No, I'm just trying to get away. There's ... something I can't fight."
"You're a whipping boy. Raised by mongrels and set on a sacrificial stone."
"I'm getting a cramp," Xander uttered, standing. To find himself somewhere else. A growling sound echoed from a darkened trellis. Backing away, he found himself in the courtyard of Giles and Jenny's apartment.
Xander turned and dashed inside. "Giles, it's here!"
"It's more serious than we thought," Giles uttered as if he had never spoken.
"Giles!" Xander tried again.
"I can fight anything. Right?" Buffy queried.
"Maybe we should slap her," Anya remarked.
The door rattled again. Xander backed away, only to find himself bumping into something.
The clay clad woman growled at him and pushed her hand into his chest. Xander found his voice screaming as she pulled out his heart.
In the Mansion on Crawford Street the sleeping form of Xander convulsed in shock. Now like his redhead friend he began to choke and die in his sleep.
The old gold pocket watch swung back and forth, suspended in his hands.
"You have to stop thinking, " he intoned. "Let it wash over you."
"Don't you think it's a little old-fashioned?" His slayer asked.
"This is the way women and men have behaved since the beginning, before time. Now look into the light."
Buffy stared at the swinging watch, then burst into gleeful laughter. Giles closed his eyes in frustration, only to hear other sounds suddenly. He opened his eyes and found them in the streets of the town, heading towards a graveyard.
"Come on! Come on!" Buffy cried, dragging him along by the hand towards the rows of crypts and graves. Strangely they were decorated almost as if they were circus attractions. "We're gonna miss all the good stuff."
"Does she always want to train this badly?" A voice asked him, making Giles turn to find Jenny at his side. Curiously she was still full-term but pushing an empty pram. "Well, it appears she's never heard the fable about patience," he found himself replying.
"Which one is that?" Jenny asked.
"The, the one about the fox, and the, uh, less patient fox," Giles said quickly.
Buffy stopped in front of one of the graves, which held more than a passing resemblance to a shooting booth. "Here, I want to, I want to!"
"Yes, go ahead," Giles found himself agreeing.
"I am a vampire!" A recorded tinny voice sounded behind the fake vampire targets. Buffy aimed a ball but missed by a mile.
"Buffy, you have a sacred birthright to protect mankind," Giles found himself saying. "Don't stick out your elbow."
"I am a vampire!" The voice repeated. Buffy picked up another ball and this time, victory was hers. "Ahh, you staked me!"
As the slayer turned round, beaming, Giles moaned. "I haven't got any treats."
"For god's sake, Rupert, go easy on the girl," Jenny admonished. She doled out a few coins, and directed the slayer to the cotton candy.
"This is my business," Giles found himself protesting. "Blood of the lamb and all that." He turned in the direction of the slayer and groaned. "Oh, now you're gonna get that all over your face."
But the slayer turned, and though her face was covered, it was not in candy, but in mud. Her expression was different, no longer childish, but even younger, almost primitive.
"I know you," Giles echoed.
"Hey!" Another British voice cried out. Giles turned to see Spike standing at the entrance to a crypt. "Come on! You're gonna miss everything!" He turned and entered the grave house.
"Don't push me around," Giles answered as he entered the crypt. "You know I have a great deal to do." He found himself suddenly bereft of his companions. Spike meanwhile was surrounded by tourists.
"I've hired myself out as an attraction," he informed Giles.
"Sideshow freak?" Giles asked.
"Well, at least it's showbiz."
"What am I supposed to do with all of this?" Giles asked, confused.
"You gotta make up your mind, Rupes. What are you wasting your time for? Haven't you figured it all out yet, with your enormous squishy frontal lobes?"
"I still think Buffy should have killed you," Giles found himself commenting. Spike was nonplussed, still posing for the crowd. Giles turned away and walked through the suddenly large crypt.
"I wear the cheese," a man said as they passed each other. "It does not wear me."
"Honestly, you meet the most appalling sorts of people," Giles found himself saying before coming to a door. He opened it and walked through into the Bronze. Seeing the Scoobies grouped around their booth, he walked over to them. "I'm so sorry I'm late. There's a great deal going on. And all at once!"
"Don't we know it," Willow agreed. "Only at death's door over here, and look at Xander!" She pulled up his shirt to reveal the wound left from his attacker.
"Got the sucking chest wound swinging," Xander commented, unaffected. "I promised Anya I'd be there for her big night. Now I'll probably be pushing up daisies, in the sense of being in the ground underneath them and fertilising the soil with decomposition."
Giles glanced in the direction of his pointing, and saw Anya on stage, trying to tell a joke. The jeers from the crowd indicated how well it was going. Willow and Xander turned back to the books before them. "She's doing quite well," Giles uttered as if saying it would make it so.
"Do you know this is your fault?" Willow asked him.
"We have to think of the facts, Willow," Giles heard himself answer. "I'm very busy. I have a gig myself, you know."
"Something's after us. It's, uh, like some primal ... some animal force," Willow added.
"That used to be us," Giles commented.
"Don't get linear on me now, man," Xander complained.
"Rupert," Willow said, surprising Giles. "You've gotta focus. You must have some kind of explanation. If we don't know what we're fighting, I don't think we stand a chance."
Giles felt himself open his mouth and begin to explain what he had come to realise, but the words came out in song. "It's strange, it's not like anything we've faced before." He paused as he rose and walked to the stage, where a band had suddenly appeared to support his vocals. "It seems familiar somehow. Of course! The spell we cast with Buffy, must have released some primal evil that's come back seeking, I'm not sure what. Willow, look through the chronicles for some reference to a warrior beast. I've got to warn Buffy. There's every chance she might be next. Xander, help Willow. And try not to bleed on my couch I've just had it steam-cleaned. No, wait..."
The mike went dead. Confused, Giles glanced down at the wires, and followed them back to the source, where he found the thing he had first been holding; his pocket watch. "Well, that was ... obvious."
A growl sounded from above, and he looked up to the see the creature, holding her weapon, far above him.
"I know who you are," Giles heard himself say. "And I can defeat you ... with my intellect. I ... can cripple you with my thoughts. Of course, you underestimate me. You couldn't know. You never had a Watcher."
At the Mansion on Crawford Street Giles' sleeping form took several gasping breaths.
A voice was calling to her.
"Buffy! Wake up!"
She opened her eyes, to find herself in her and Angel's bedroom. She turned in the direction of the voice, to find it belonged to Anya.
"Buffy, you have to wake up right away!" The former vengeance demon implored.
"I'm not really in charge of these things," Buffy heard herself say as she closed her eyes once again.
"Please wake up. Oh please." Anya pleaded.
"I need my beauty sleep. So stop it, okay?" She rolled over on to her back.
Only to find the creature staying down at her.
Abruptly she sat up, and the scene around her shifted. She was in another of the Mansion's bedrooms, but one of the guest suites on the second floor. Suddenly she was standing upon it's threshold, looking at the unmade bed.
"Faith and I just made that bed," she heard herself say.
"For who?" A voice asked.
Buffy turned and saw Tara had joined her. "I thought you were here to tell me." She paused before asking, "the guys aren't here, are they? We were gonna hang out and, watch movies t-"
"You lost them," Tara interrupted.
Buffy shook her head. "No. No. I think they need me to find them." She glanced at the alarm clock beside the bed, showing the time to be seven-thirty am. "It's so late."
"Oh ... that clock's completely wrong," Tara remarked, handing her something. "Here."
Buffy looked at the Tarot card of Manus that she had just been handed. "I'm never gonna use those."
"You think you know what's to come," Tara intoned softly. "What you are. You haven't even begun."
Buffy glanced from her towards the freshly made bed. "I think I need to go find the others."
"This is why we chose you," Tara was heard to utter as she walked away. Buffy wondered what she meant as she climbed down the spiral staircase that led to the first floor. Instead of arriving at the doors to her and Angel's rooms however, she found herself in the conference room of the Initiative.
"Hey there, killer," Riley said from his place at the conference table. A human who she realised bore a more than remarkable resemblance to Adam, sat to the right of him.
"Riley? You're back," Buffy felt herself say.
"I never left," Riley answered her. He gestured at Adam. "We're drawing up a plan for world domination. The key element? Coffeemakers that think."
"World domination?" Buffy echoed, concerned. "I-is that a good?"
"Baby, we're the government. It's what we do."
"She's uncomfortable with certain concepts," Adam commented. "It's understandable. Aggression is a natural human tendency. Though you and me come by it another way."
"We're not demons," Buffy answered, but in defence of her and her ancestors.
"Is that a fact?" Adam countered.
"Buffy, we've got important work here," Riley said dismissively. "A lot of filing, giving things names."
"What was yours?" Buffy asked Adam.
"Before Adam? Not a man among us can remember."
A blue alarm light suddenly began to flash.
"The demons have escaped. Please run for your lives," the computer instructed.
"This could be trouble," Adam commented, standing.
Riley followed suit. "We better make a fort."
Adam nodded. "I'll get some pillows."
Buffy glanced to the floor, to find her bag before her. "Wait! I have weapons!" She sat on the floor and opened the bag.
Only to find mud. The slayer covered her face with it solemnly.
"Thought you were looking for your friends," Riley remarked. "Okay, killer... if that's the way you want it. I guess you're on your own."
He walked away, leaving a beam of light before her. Buffy felt her body walk forward towards it.
And into the desert.
"I'm never gonna find them here," she heard herself say, before catching sight of Tara walking towards her.
"Of course not," Tara said. "That's the reason you came."
"You're not in my dream," Buffy said in plain contradiction of the evidence.
"I was borrowed," Tara uttered. "Someone has to speak for her."
"Let her speak for herself," Buffy argued. "That's what's done in polite circles."
The creature emerged from the sands, abruptly coming from behind the slayer. She circled her, sniffing out of her enemy.
"Why do you follow me?" Buffy asked her.
"I don't," Tara answered for the primitive.
"Where are my friends?" Buffy tried.
"You're asking the wrong questions," Tara answered.
"Make her speak," Buffy commanded.
"I have no speech," Tara answered for her. "No name. I live in the action of death, the blood cry, the penetrating wound. I am destruction. Absolute ... alone."
"The Slayer," Buffy realised.
"The first," Tara confirmed.
"I am not alone," Buffy countered.
The primitive shook her head, while Tara replied with words. "The Slayer does not walk in this world."
"I walk," Buffy countered. "I talk. I shop, I sneeze. I'm gonna be a fireman when the floods roll back. There's trees in the desert since you moved out. And I don't sleep on a bed of bones. Now give me back my friends."
The words had made the primitive angry enough to speak for herself. "No ... friends! Just the kill! We ... are ... alone!"
A bald man with cheese suddenly intervened between them, holding up the slices with an inane smile.
"That's it," Buffy decided. "I'm waking up."
The primitive attacked her, trying to push her face into the sand. Buffy met the ancient fighting stance with an equally ancient one of her own, only much more sophisticated and powerful. The martial artist was always the superior.
"It's over," Buffy commented. "We don't do this any more. Enough!"
She pushed the primitive away, brushing what little sand grains remained away from her eyes. Fully opening them, she blinked.
To find herself back in the living room of the Mansion on Crawford Street. A growl sound, and she was pushed to the floor. The primitive stabbed repeatedly at the stone floor with her weapon.
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Are you quite finished? It's over, okay? I'm going to ignore you, and you're going to go away."
The primitive rolled away and rose from the floor.
"You're really gonna have to get over the whole ... primal power thing," Buffy continued as she rose and walked towards the sofa. "You're not the source of me. Also, in terms of hair care, you really wanna say, what kind of impression am I making in the workplace? 'Cause-"
In mid-sentence she woke up, opening her eyes and finding herself in Angel's arms, on the sofa, in the living room of the Mansion on Crawford Street, gasping for breath.
At the same time Willow, Xander and Giles also opened their eyes, gasping as well.
"The First Slayer," Angel commented. "Wow."
They were all awake now, the gasps having alerted the rest of the naturally sleepy slayerettes that something had occurred. In an effort to stay awake they had assembled in the large dining room of the Mansion.
"Not big with the socialisation," Xander commented.
"Or the floss," Willow added.
"Somehow our joining with Buffy and invoking the essence of the Slayer's power was an affront to the source of that power," Giles murmured in understanding.
"You know, you could have brought that up to us before we did it," Buffy remarked.
"I did," Giles reminded her. "I said there could be dire consequences."
"Yes, but you say that about chewing too fast," Buffy pointed out.
"You all right?" Angel asked her.
"Yeah. I think I might jump in the shower."
"You seem a bit, uh..." His girlfriend nodded. "A little. The First Slayer. I never really thought about it. It was intense. I guess you guys got a taste of that, huh."
"Yeah, from now on, you keep your Slayer friends out of my dreams," Xander admonished. "Is that clear?"
"It's not good for the sleeping," Willow agreed.
"Well, at least you all didn't dream about that guy with the cheese," Buffy remarked as she rose up from her chair. "I don't know where the hell that came from."
Willow, Xander and Giles glanced at each other in astonishment, while she walked towards the dining room door. She raised her hand to clasp the handle, only for it to open before she could.
Jenny was standing upon the threshold. "Guys, I hate to interrupt the vid-fest, but I think it's time."
Giles and the rest rushed to rise from their chairs and Buffy went past her to grab the keys for Angel's car.
Not finding them in the kitchen, she dashed upstairs and began a search of the bedrooms.
Curiously, she found them on the second floor, in the room where she had stood before the made bed in her dreams, first with Faith, then with Tara.
"You think you know," the voice of the latter intoned once more, "what's to come. What you are. You haven't even begun."
Buffy shook herself and grabbed the keys off the bed before turning and running to join the others.
The End. Of Season Four.
Buffy Vs Dracula.