Dearest reader,

what you are now about to read is a story that I have toiled with for many a year and that I truly hope you will be dragged into by hook and claw and fang, all of them serving to compel your fingers to write the feedback I feel I rightly deserve for the entertainment of being dragged into anything by hook and claw and fang. If you are only dragged by hook and claw or claw and fang or fang and hook, then something short will suffice. If you are merely pulled, and not dragged, then a word or two will have to do, I suppose. But whether you love it or you hate it, I hope that you will tell me, because otherwise I might as well leave this adventure at the back of my head and be done with it. For the love of all that is holy - R&R!

As for the story itself, remember this - it deals with two universes.

The chapters that are labeled Sire and Childe are canon up until What's My Line Again Pt Two of Season Two.

The chapters that are labeled Slayer and Vamp are canon up until Flooded of Season Six.

Now, all I can hope is that the hook and claw and fang won't leave you gutted and bleeding out on the floor. What would your loved ones say?

With love from the author.

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Chapter One: Claim

Sire and Childe

He had always known that all it would take was brute strength and luck; the last one in fairly large amounts. It wasn't about planning or skulking around dark alleyways, it wasn't about waiting. Waiting for her to slip. It was about being there, in that moment. It was about recognizing it. Claiming it.

He saw it now. It was right there, like a shimmering halo around her head.

"I'd rather be fighting you anyway."

He meant it.

"Mutual."

She meant it.

He had to smirk. She didn't know that those breaths she was taking were the last mouthfuls of air she would ever taste. Her lack of insight nauseated him. At least he had felt it coming, like brushstrokes on his blank canvas. She was tough, he gave her that. She was the strongest of the Slayers that he had ever fought, and yet it was there, the wish, a little twinkle in the corner of her eye, inviting him. He smiled.

She was beating him. In the very real and literal sense. Her fists were like locomotives on a rail, never missing, never slowing. He took the punches as though they were neat little gifts for him to savor. He would never feel them upon him again.

He would drain her.

Peaches was just about gone. Completely out of it, at least. His blood flowing into Drusilla, healing her insides, taking the sickness away; making her strong. His fierce, dark love. They would hunt together again.

He locked his gaze with the Slayer's. He wanted her to know. He wanted her to feel fear at what was inevitable. He wanted her to bloody crawl. She looked at him with hatred, destruction in her eyes, when suddenly he saw it. A waver. And with it came an opening, and he moved through it, grabbing her by the neck and pushing her down. She had lost her focus for one fraction of a second and it was all it took, there she was, at his feet.

He was on her before she could move, before she could think, before she could protest. His hand at her throat, the tip of his nose gracing hers. He saw something else then, in the green of her irises, something he could not define, didn't have time to.

He vamped out. There was fear. Deep. Crazed. She tensed. He pushed at her jaw; she tilted her head, exposing that softness, that craved slanting of skin. He licked it. Hard. His fangs followed. She relaxed. She tasted like sun-warm earth, like a flawless sunset, like sunlight on cold stone. She was dying.

And then, she wasn't.

x

Her head felt as though it was suffering a major hangover. It was aching most deliciously, but the taste in her mouth was coppery and foreign. She made a face, licking her dry lips as she opened her eyes and peered through hanging locks of hair. She felt like a boat left in the water too long, swollen and unfitting in a place she should feel at home: she was in her basement.

She cleared her throat. It wasn't just her head feeling like someone had done the pretty with it and not stayed for the consequences – her whole body, so rudely shifted as she tried to straighten herself up, joined in the flowing pain. She winced, moving her hands to her head, only her arms didn't reach. She furrowed her brow in wonder. She was shackled to the wall.

"What...?" she murmured; the way her throat scratched at uttering the word interrupting the sentence.

"She's awake," she heard a distant voice. "Go get Giles."

"Xand...?" she tried, blinking at the sudden light falling over the stairs in front of her as the door to the first floor opened.

It slid shut slowly, and as darkness settled, the shadows seemed to be stretching for her, enveloping her. Tears rose without explanation and she blinked even more furiously. She turned her head to the right and there it was. There it was. The ache intensifying. Her hand placed itself at the side of her throat. There it was. The bite mark.

She realized then, she wasn't breathing.

Her eyes met Xander's. He looked terrified, and concerned.

It couldn't be happening. She was having an incredibly vivid nightmare. Only, she remembered. She remembered the yellow gaze resting in hers moments before the demon drank its way into her.

Want to hug me now? she wanted to ask. Want to be near me now?

"How long?" she inquired instead, the longing for cruelty abating.

Xander stared at her, as though he had expected her to have a different voice, to look like someone else. Like the newborn devil that she was. Why didn't she feel different?

"How long?" she exclaimed.

"Three days," he replied quietly.

She had noticed the flinch.

He's scared of me, she thought, and it was so ironic it almost made her smile.

She heard feet above; the running steps on the stairs leading down from the second floor before the door opened. Brightness. The following second Giles and Willow were in the room as well.

"Buffy," Willow said.

She was gentle. She wasn't afraid. Buffy wondered if she shouldn't be. At the sight of her Watcher, she felt it stir for the first time, like yellow yolk in clean, white cream. The demon.

"Get it out," she said; her gaze in Giles'. "Get it out of me!"

She yanked at her restraints, fighting an inexplicable battle to break free. She felt panic rise like a smoke pillar on the horizon and she set her sights on it, following it, allowing it to guide her. She needed it. She had to thrash this entity out of her pores, seep it out of her brain; drain it away as it had drained her away.

"Oh, God, Buffy," she heard Willow's voice.

"Calm down," Giles instructed. "Calm down."

She heard the quiver, though; it was the only thing that reached through the blindness, slapping it away. She could tell that they were giving up hope.

She was clenching her fingers into tight fists, her knuckles whitening.

"We're working on it," he assured, but the words didn't soothe.

She felt her insides loosen, hanging suspended by the insight branding itself on her still heart.

"Angel," she said. "Where is he?"

"He's fine. He's resting," Willow answered. "He lost a lot of blood..."

She trailed off.

Buffy could tell what she was thinking: that so had she; but she had let it flow back down her throat. Why had she done that? How could she do that? What had possessed her to cross that line? It was more like a ditch, for Christ's sakes, and Spike. A jolt went through her at the thought of the vampire. It spread wires of electricity along her every nerve and she was alive again.

He's my sire, she thought in baffled horror.

At this recognition a new kind of pain started, like thin needles dancing on tiptoe around the bite. She closed her eyes, willing it away. All of it.

"Why do I feel like this?" she asked, unsure of the question, and knowing none of the others had the answer.

x

Giles closed the door taking him out onto the kitchen porch. He looked at the two teens sitting wearily leaned against one another on the top step of the stairs, leading to the edge of a sun-burned lawn. Everything was harsher now, somehow. He had no idea what to do. To lose a Slayer, to have lost Buffy, would have caused a pain he was unsure he could have dealt with; but seeing her in this form created a different sort of ache. It was searing, conclusive.

He took his glasses off, rubbing the bridge of his nose as he had a seat next to Willow.

They were all silent.

"I s she asleep?" Willow asked at last.

Giles nodded slowly.

"I can't believe there's nothing we can do," Xander murmured.

Giles sighed, looking at his hands. They were beginning to look old, he thought. Worn in. Like a good pair of gloves. They knew how to do things. How to find things in books, in earth. But they couldn't save her. They had failed to stop Spike.

They clenched at the name, wringing the letters violently, wanting to twist them out of shape, out of context, as though that would stop time. As though that would undo it.

"If there was anything we could do, the Slayer would be obsolete," the Watcher replied to Xander's statement.

"Her face..." Willow mumbled, her eyes brimming with sorrow. "Didn't even seem like she noticed."

"Not really surprising. She's not Buffy anymore," Xander said flatly. "She's a vampire. Their face is supposed to do that."

Willow clutched his arm tighter, burrowing her nose against the sleeve of his sweater.

"I'm not sure it's that simple," Giles remarked.

"Well, I am," Xander replied, shrugging Willow off and getting to his feet.

"Xander," Willow objected, mostly at the differentiated expression on his face. "I know you don't think that." She swallowed. "It's Buffy."

"No," Xander shook his head. "That thing down there isn't Buffy. You need to wake up, both of you. Buffy is gone. She's dead."

"Stop it!" Willow yelled.

"If you let her loose it'll only be a matter of time before we're hunting her down because she's killing people," he barked back. "Don't you get that?"

Giles could see the anger mixing with the hurt. He understood it far too well. He understood both of them. The need to hold onto the idea of Buffy being Buffy, and the recognition of things having changed forever. And he felt that rip of fright he could see in Xander's eyes at the thought of having to put a stake through Buffy's heart and watch her turn into ashes.

Xander spun around and stormed off. Willow made a small movement as if wanting to rise and go after him, but seemed to change her mind and stayed where she was.

"I'm afraid he might be right," Giles finally admitted.

Willow wouldn't look at him.

"She asked about Angel."

"Yes. She still has her memories. To some extent she may still have her feelings. But the Slayer is dead, Willow. She'll never be the Buffy we knew."

"So we what? We keep her down there? What about Joyce? Should she take care of her daughter like that?"

"We can't trust her now. You know that," Giles answered quietly.

"Please," she grumbled. "Don't say that."

A noise made both of them turn their heads to the door behind them. It had been a low clanking: iron against stone. They exchanged a glance before rising as one to their feet.

The basement was empty.

"This is not good," Willow said.

Giles squatted down to examine the locks of the chains. He ran his thumb over the scratches covering them and moved his gaze to the side until they rested on a rusty nail, tossed aside as it had served its purpose.

"I know where she's gone," Willow stated.

So did he.

x

Angel put the newly acquired bags of blood in the fridge, removing his jacket and hanging it on its hook by the door before pausing. He furrowed his brow. He wasn't alone. It was a strange mixture of a scent – something new and yet very familiar.

He turned his head and rested his gaze in Buffy's. She sat curled up on his bed and he thought how young she looked in that moment; like a little girl.

Fledgling.

The word flew through his mind before he could even contemplate what it meant.

Newborn.

Childe.

"Buffy," he said, if so only to sidestep the track his thoughts were on. "How'd you get in? What're you doing here?"

She looked as though he had just told her to leave, like she couldn't believe what he was saying, and he had to wonder if he had ever uttered those words to her before. Probably had, but now they meant something very different. He could see why she would be offended by them.

She scooted to the edge of the bed, reaching with her toes for her kicked-off shoes and nudging them right before sliding her feet into them.

"I'm sorry," he murmured. "I don't know why I said that."

"Don't you?" she asked, her eyes in his.

There was defiance, and insecurity.

"Don't go," he said.

She hesitated, but complied, her stance relaxing. Her vulnerability marked her eyes as though they were her new fingerprints; as though the demon had taken away instead of adding on. He supposed it had. That that was what it did.

"I don't know what to do," she finally said, her eyes filling with tears.

He spread his arms and she was in his embrace the next instant.

"We'll figure it out."

All the time her scent, so different, circling, haunting, oppressing. He closed his eyes. She was still Buffy.

A sharp pain shot through his neck and he pushed her away more abruptly than he had intended. She stumbled backwards into the opposite wall, her eyes widening. He stared at her new face. He stared into the sharp green gaze of the demon and he could see her sire there; only for one flitting moment, but it was enough. Disgust and rage filled him in equal measure and he couldn't tell who it was directed at, but he did see her seeing it.

Suddenly the door was flung open and Willow came through it, quickly followed by Giles. They were armed.

"Wait!" he called out.

"Buffy," Willow said, taking in the obviousness of the situation before adding: "It's going to be alright. Just come with us..."

Buffy glanced at Angel. He wanted to stop her, but the following blink she was gone. Willow and Giles had both been pushed to the floor during her hasty exit, and they sat up, looking at each other in honest regret.

Too late for that now, he thought gloomily. I could have handled that better. Just don't go where I know you'll go. Please, Buffy. He can't help you. He won't.