Glorificus looks around, taking in the situation. "How unexpected. He finally did something right."
Who the hell is she talking about? Xander's heart is pounding. He hugs Faith who's clutching their daughter to her chest and staring at The Beast with grim, desperate challenge. He has never felt so powerless. Why can't he teleport? Or shoot laser beams from his eyes?
Glorificus smiles. "I don't even need to stain my divine hands, gutting a filthy human body and seeking bloodied bowels for my Key. It's already extracted from the cache and ready for use...."
Faith struggles to sit up but, exhausted, falls back into Xander's arms.
"How very useful of him..." Glorificus steps up and stumbles. "Hey, what have you worms done?"
Willow blocks the way, her silhouette crackling with magic. "Enemies, fly and fall...circling arms, raise a wall..."
Glorificus laughs derisively. "A little witch. You know what people used to do to witches? Burn 'em." She pounds on Willow's invisible barrier and Willow staggers a bit.
"Things change," Giles says as he joins hands with Willow. Glorificus hits the barrier again and yelps in frustration.
"Ouch," Buffy deadpans, taking Giles' hand. "A broken nail can get a girl into a bad mood for a week, you know."
"Especially if the skank paints her nails with the most garish polish in this dimension," Spike adds, grabbing Buffy's hand.
"How dare you! I am a God."
"The God of what?" Spike leers. "Bad perms? Fashion rejects?"
You need to enrage a God? Call Spike. Glorificus howls in frustration.
"Shut up, half-breed! Back in my youth, we called you the ooze that eats itself. You sparkled and stank of that filthy, degrading humanity that gets under my skin and devours me like a plague. I've been waiting an eternity - almost twenty-five human years - to get back to my beloved Hell where I'm gonna rule again. I'm gonna rain down more slaughter, mayhem and bloodshed than you can even dream about. So how come I ain't happy? Am I really fond of that little nagging pinch of humanity in me?"
Willow shoots a beam and Glorificus staggers, engulfed in the vortex of magic energy.
"You will pay for your insolence, arrogant littlewitch!" she hisses. "You think you can save them?"
"I know I can save them."
Willow's voice sounds strange - low and thundering. She looks back at Xander, smiles reassuringly, and he bolts, horrified, because her eyes are completely black and her face is covered with a web of thin black veins.
"You can't save them, you worthless scab!" Glorificus screeches. "And you know why? Because all of them are trapped here because of - you!"
"Don't listen to her, Willow," Giles warns.
Glorificus sniggers. "Remember the day you came to the hospital to talk to your friend, witch? You had just uncovered a big fat secret. The secret your Watcher wanted to protect you from. But you found out that a Slayer was carrying a child and you were so eager to share the news, so proud that you outsmarted your Watcher..."
"Giles, I swear I didn't want to..." Willow trails off.
"Later," he barks. "Focus!"
"You soared so high," Glorificus laughs, triumphant. "You fancied yourself the savior. You were expecting people to worship you. You stroked your ego, imagining how your friends would tell you about your brilliance, how you would become their leader. How that girl, who once was your enemy, would share your bed..."
Glorificus roars with laugher. "You are getting weak, honey. You realize, finally, who you are. A fragile human girl who is so scared and insecure that she defies a God to prove herself worthy."
"Kali, Hera, Kronos, Tonic, air like nectar thick as Onyx..." Willow chants desperately.
"Humanity is so funny," Glorificus muses. "Humans always potter about, stuck in their pathetic desires and passions. Yet, deep inside, each human pits himself against Gods. Frustrating, isn't it, to be muck at our feet? I can sympathize, witch. It was incredibly frustrating, to be trapped in a worthless human body when I knew the Key was so close. My minions went to the hospital to talk to Ben, overheard your conversation and I realized that the Key was hidden in another worthless human body..."
Xander looks at his daughter who sleeps through all of this in Faith's arms, and squeezes his fists. Yes, he is very frustrated to be trapped in his worthless human body. If he could break free he'd strangle The Beast with his bare hands.
He stands up and feverishly pats his pockets. He'd give anything for a decent weapon - bazooka, nuclear war-head, Klingon battleship - but there is nothing but Anya's sachet with the powder of Nagarju-something. He fumbles it aimlessly. What did Anya say about it? It reveals the inner essense of a person... no, it reveals weakness...
"...but you never give up, worms," Glorificus spits bitterly. "You pollute me with your stinking humanity. I'm lowering myself to mocking you, little witch, instead of putting my fist through your heart. I want to see you squirming, sobbing, begging for mercy when I start to eviscerate your friends..."
"Don't listen to her, Willow," Buffy pleads.
Too late. Darth Rosenberg's facade crumbles, and the next moment the magic barrier crackles and dissipates. Glorificus backhands Willow viciously, flings her across the room, and rushes to the Key.
To his daughter.
The Beast doesn't even notice Xander. If there's one good thing about being a nobody, it's working on saving the world unnoticed - especially to the enemy...
He acts instinctively. It's a pure reflex - to splash the powder into Glorificus' face. Only when the sparkling cloud starts to envelop her, the thought about the little nagging pinch of humanity in The Beast flashes in his brain...
... and then it happens again.
A slide cartridge of furious Glorificus is taken out of the slot, for a brief moment there is a blank white wall, then another cartridge is inserted and there is doctor Ben, rumpled, unconscious, lying at his feet.
"Bloody buggering hell!" Spike exclaims. "It wasn't a hallucination! This bastard is Glorificus' host. He has been here, all the time. We could have killed him at any moment."
What is he talking about?
"Who is Glorificus' host?" Buffy asks, utterly bewildered.
Spike looks at her, baffled. "You know... Ben. He is The Beast."
Spike must be off his rocker. Ben isn't The Beast. Ben is the doctor who delivered their baby.
Willow slowly approaches them, staggering. "You mean Ben's with The Beast?"
"Has your God-defying gig scrambled your brains, Red?"
She only blinks.
"Bugger." Exasperated, Spike turns to Giles. "You saw it, didn't you, Rupert?"
"Is everyone here very stoned?" Spike looks between them, seriously pissed. "That wanker Ben turned into The Beast, did his "mwahaha, I'm evil" number, got sprinkled with shiny sparklets and turned back into wanker Ben. Surely, you remember! Ben. Glorificus. He's a doctor. She's The Beast. Two entirely separate entities, sharing one body. It's like a bloody sitcom!"
Spike must be hallucinating. Or watching too many soaps.
Spike grabs him by the shoulders, shakes him roughly and winces as his chips fires. "Listen, I can't kill the bastard because of my sodding chip, but you can. You just have to believe me. The Beast worked the kind of mojo where anyone who sees her little presto-chango instantly forgets. And yours truly, being a vampire, stands immune. This wanker is The Beast."
"Are you out of your mind, Spike?" Buffy snaps. "You're asking Xander to kill Ben?"
"Bloody yes!" Spike squares off against her. "Because this is the only way."
"But but " Buffy turns to Giles for support, but he seems lost in thought, his gaze focused on Ben's unconscious form.
It does make sense. Gregor said something about vampires' immunity to the spell. And isn't it strange that Ben appeared right where The Beast was standing?..
"Dammit, Harris! We don't have much time! Do you trust me?"
Can you trust a killer?
Something glimmers on the floor under the counter. Gregor's broadsword. Xander awkwardly lifts it up. It's incredibly heavy. And long. And - completely unreal. How could knights fight with these? In full armor? Yet they fought and they went to the Crusades and...
And they killed.
"What are you doing, Xander?" Buffy says, appalled. "You can't kill a human!"
What is he doing?
"He does what a man should do!" Spike snaps, blocking her the way. "For fuck's sake, Xander! Either you trust a vampire - or else the skank will be back and we all will die."
It's so weird, Spike calling him by name. It's so weird, them all looking at him. It feels like a school Shakespere production, him raising a sword over a man. Except it's a real sword raised over a real man. The man who delivered his baby. To be or...
He closes his eyes when he buries the sword in Ben's chest. Part of him still hopes to wake up in cold sweat and realize it was just a nightmare. But a when he forces himself to open his eyes, he sees a bloodied corpse with the sword in the chest.
Right in the heart. Staking vampires for five years finally paid off.
"The kid has guts," Spike croaks.
Xander turns away. He feels sick. He looks at Faith whose eyes are full of sympathy and he finally understands what she felt when she killed the Mayor's flunky. Some integral part of his soul is lost forever.
The Xander they knew is gone. Irreversibly. He is a different man.
"Look," Willow whispers.
He doesn't want to, but he looks nevertheless.
The body starts to change. Close-cropped cut turns into a shock of curls, the face acquires a feminine pout, the masculine bulk transforms into a thin woman's torso.
"Oh, goodness," Gregor says with awe. "You killed it. You really killed The Beast."
The transformation of the body goes on. Beautiful face blackens, eyes sink into eye-sockets, flesh decomposes and acquires the look of an old parchment. Buffy touches the hand of the corpse and it bursts into dust.
Poor Doctor Ben.
"The Beast is dead," Gregor proclaims solemnly. "It's the end of the era of horrors, tortures and depravity..."
"Preaching to the choir, general," Giles says as he cuts the rope on Gregor's hands and feet. "There. Go tell your people to let us be."
The general nods. Before he leaves he comes to Xander and shakes his hand. "Thank you."
Just yesterday Xander would have quipped about calling him any time a God needs to get his ass kicked. But now his tongue fails and he can only say, "You're welcome."
Nothing feels right. They've defeated the big bad, yet he feels like he's the only part in this whole picture that doesn't make sense.
A hand rests on his shoulder. "Do you want to hold her?" Faith asks softly.
He takes his daughter in his arms and his heart warms to her immediately. She is so small and weird and she's his. He hugs Faith and his detachment slowly melts away as he drinks in the moment. Their daughter. Their connection. Unexpected sadness in Buffy's eyes. Willow's awkward smile. Spike's knowing smirk. Giles' respectful glance.
Dawn of a new day. The moment of truth.
"What should we call her?" Faith asks.
"Dawn," he says softly. "We'll call her Dawn."