This story takes place after the end of ATS. LA was just the start. Hell in the alleyway has become Hell on Earth and no one can predict the outcome. Only a prophecy holds the clue to what can stop it.

Disclaimer: All characters created by Joss Whedon. I don't own them, I just make them do stuff to entertain myself.

*****

The horde of beasts loomed upon them as the small group of demon fighters looked on at their doom. The two vampires at the head, the blue demon behind and the tall black man, leaning against a dumpster, clutching a bloody wound at his side. The question that the blonde vampire had asked hung in the air as the brunette smiled and raised his sword. He stepped forward, a look of pure contempt and determination on his face. This was their destiny. This was the final fight. And they were probably all going to die.

'Let's go to work.' He said with a small grin lifting one corner of his mouth. The blonde nodded and raised his own weapon, looking ahead to the army of darkness coming down on them fast. As he braced himself to fight alongside his former mentor and nemesis, he took a deep unneeded breath and stepped forward beside the other vampire. The brunette looked at him, finally giving him the encouragement the blonde had searched for all these years and they both charged forward towards the approaching army. The others held back, and watched as the two vampires raised their weapons and screamed almost in unison.

Then one disappeared and the other halted in his approach, noticing immediately the empty space where his comrade had been. The demon horde was still a few metres away and he panicked slightly, looking back in confusion.

'Spike?' He called; a frown on his face.

A roar distracted him and he turned, his weapon readied once more as the residents of hell bore down on him. He flinched as a flash of light filled his vision and a battle cry echoed from behind him. The blue demon had left the black man, who had fallen to the dumpster, and the vampire knew instinctively that he was dead. A part of him wanted to scream, but instead, he turned to his enemy and brought his own wrath down. His missing brethren, and his fallen friends, were forgotten as he waged his war against Hell, but he knew, without thinking, that in part, this was his tribute to them. He would win, he would survive, and he would honour them again.

They would not be forgotten.

They would live on.

****

'It wasn't the end.'

The darkness in the boat cargo hold was consuming and it occupants could only see an inch in front of themselves. A shallow breathing filled the dark space but two sat in the hold, both inhuman, both weary and bleeding from the fight they had thought would be the end. It was the male of the two that was talking, the other sat in silence as he contemplated his own thoughts.

'I really thought it was the end. But Wes…Gunn…they all died for nothing.'

He expected silence to follow his comment, but the female opposite him shifted uncomfortably and shook her head, even though he could barely see the movement.

'They did not die in vain. They died for something I never wished to have before, something I did not believe in. The simple system of belief you all foolishly had in the good in this world is not so foolish.' Her tone was even, as it always was. The only change was that there was no contempt in her voice anymore. 'These things I did not have in my world. I do not understand the things you fight for, the things Wesley told me of. Love, family, friendship. These things were neither required nor wanted in my time. But now, looking at the unrelenting belief you have, the willingness to die for something that you are not even sure is real…I wish to understand these things. I wish to have these things.'

Instead, his own silence followed. His thoughts raced, as the boat rocked from side to side, he held his head in his hands; covered in blood from a fight he didn't think he would win. The only way they had survived was because of the trap he had set before. L.A was dead, in flames, consumed by fire. The demons were gone, for now. He had many thoughts in his mind, but only two mattered.

He had to find Buffy.

And he had to find Spike.

****

'He is probably dead.'

'He's alive.'

'You cannot be sure of that.'

'I am.'

The demon woman folded her arms. Light was slowly filtering into the cargo hold as they neared their destination. Sunrise was imminent and the vampire had slowly moved backwards to the rear of the hold to avoid the sunlight. He knew they would still be in this hold for another twelve hours, and by the time they reached their destination, it would be nightfall and he would be safe to travel. But for now, he had to contend with his companion's arguments. She was irritable because of their conditions and he knew he was hungry. He still wasn't entirely sure that she ate, or slept, or whether she did anything remotely human. He'd probably find out eventually.

'How can you be sure? Do you have some power that I was not made aware of?'

'No. Well…I'm a vampire, Illyria. Spike was family. There was a blood connection between us. I can't sense him near now, and I couldn't when he disappeared. I thought he was dead at first, but there is still a connection there. I know he's alive. Somehow.' He looked down at his tattered remains of a shirt, his eyes connecting with a particularly sore burn mark. Stupid fire breathing dragon. 'I just…I'd know it if he was dead.'

'You show faith in someone you showed contempt for before. I do not understand this.'

'Neither do I.'

Silence held them still for a few moments before she spoke again.

'Did you create him?'

'No. Yes. I had a part in it.'

'I do not understand vampires. You confuse me. It was easier when you were ooze.'

He chuckled. 'I'm prone to agreement.'

'He may be dead.' She said again. He sighed. 'I sensed a portal. When he disappeared. What you may be feeling is residual. He disappeared and your primitive mind cannot comprehend it.'

'This isn't the time for insults, Illyria.' He looked up at her, her blue hair shining lightly in the morning sunshine. She seemed to enjoy the light. Maybe she was more like a plant than a human. 'Wait a minute…you sensed a portal? Do you know where it went?'

'No. It is impossible to pinpoint a portal that is not of my making. But there was a portal there. Surely you must have recognised this?'

'I thought…I wasn't sure.' She fixed him with a glare. 'There was an army coming down on us.'

'Your senses are primitive to me. You are more advanced than the infestation of humans on this world, but in some ways you are weaker. Maybe that is why you were unable to conquer this place.'

'It's not that bad.'

She ignored him and he stared at the window. If it continued to get any lighter, he would have to take cover.

And if this journey took any longer, he might be travelling solo.

****

'How do you know where we are going?' Illyria questioned him for the fiftieth time. His hands gripped the wheel of the stolen car and he frowned over at her.

'We're going to get help from some old friends. That fight wasn't the end but something big is coming. Can't you feel it?'

'I feel nothing.' She replied simply and looked out of the window. It was raining which didn't surprise him, and Illyria seemed consumed by the raindrops making patterns on her window.

'What a surprise.' He murmured and she sent him another glare. He was getting used to those. 'We should be there soon.'

'Where are we going?'

'London.'

'What is London?'

'It's the capital city of this country. It's where help is.' He squinted through the windscreen. 'I hope.'

'This place is significantly wetter then our previous dwelling.'

'Welcome to Great Britain.'

'You know this place well?'

'I have spent time here. A long time ago.' He sighed. 'Do you think maybe we could stop with all the questions for a while?'

She didn't reply and he ran a hand down his face, careful not to take his eyes off the road. His entire system was craving sustenance and he was so tired he could probably sleep for a week. But he knew in his gut that something was coming and he needed to warn the others, and get help. He needed the Slayer.

'How long until we reach our destination?' She asked.

He groaned.

****

The rain was hammering down outside the window as the aged Watcher sat at his desk, books scattered across the desk, pictures of various demons and paragraphs of ancient languages stretched out before him. Random noises echoed around the huge building, belaying the silence in his room. This house itself housed a number of occupants, including several slayers, a witch and a former key. It was the newly appointed headquarters of the New Council, an organisation less plagued by bureaucracy than its predecessor, which had been destroyed the previous year. He had set it up to accommodate the increasing number of slayers that had been activated in their fight against the First, an ancient evil hell bent on conquering the earth.

He sighed and removed his glasses as a particularly loud thump sounded above his head and an argument followed. It was most likely his assistant, Andrew, fighting with one of the newly activated Slayers. He found that whilst the boy was smart, he was easily wound up and incredibly annoying at the best of times.

A car pulling into the driveway caught his attention and he stood up, moving to the door. The only time they ever had visitors this late was when something untoward had happened, or a slayer had found her way here from instruction by the coven. There were thousands of slayers now, and it would take a long time to find each and every one. His only regret about the situation was their uncertainty about the continuation of the line; they were no longer sure if one would still be created into each generation.

A knock sounded at the door and he peered through the window warily. A sword was in the umbrella stand, always ready in case of attack, and his hand gripped it as the rain prevented him seeing who the visitor was. His other hand gripped the door knob and he opened the door slowly, aware that the creak of the old oak would alert the others upstairs. Immediately the argument that had been brewing upstairs stopped and he instinctively knew that if he turned, several young women would be staring at him from the stairs, most likely with weapons in hand.

Without further hesitation, he opened the door and was almost floored by the sight he saw. An old friend, as well as an old enemy stood before him, covered in multiple healing wounds, tattered clothing and with a gaze almost broken in its neediness. He held the door wide open, aware that the visitor could not enter without permission.

'Angel.' He said, no questioning in his voice, just surprise and some resentment. His unforgiving attitude towards the vampire had never wavered, but he was aware of the vampire's contributions as much as he was aware of his failings.

'Giles.' The vampire nodded, looking over the Watcher's shoulder to the small gathering of girls on the stairs. Andrew stood behind them all, waving at the vampire in a friendly manner. Giles looked back and rolled his eyes at the young man's actions.

'What happened?'

'I got into a fight.' Angel replied, a hint of sarcasm in his voice. Giles narrowed his eyes, and looked behind Angel at the blue female demon stood in the rain.

'Who is she?'

'She used to be a friend. Now she's something you might like to study. She's harmless enough, just a bit bitchy at times.' He looked at Giles sincerely. 'Can I come in? We have a problem I think you and everyone needs to hear.'

'Something's coming.' Giles said, almost knowing before Angel had said anything.

'Something big.' He confirmed.

Giles stood aside. 'You may enter. But I'm watching you. There are plenty of slayers here in case you feel a little too overjoyed.'

'No chance of that happening.' He said, stepping inside. The blue demon followed, looking around at her new surroundings with a mixture of curiosity and contempt. Giles studied her for a second, before remembering the weather.

'Ashley, Leanne, would you please go and fetch some towels. Karin, would you please alert Willow about our guests?' The three girls did as instructed as the others watched the new arrivals warily. Andrew rushed forward, hugging a bewildered Angel before the vampire had time to react.

'You look like hell. Can I get you anything? Cocoa, nice mug of O-neg?'

The strange boy's ramblings reminded Angel of his stomach and he pondered asking for a second. Giles seemed to notice his uncomfortable stance and looked at Andrew, finding a way to rid himself of the boy for an hour or so.

'We don't have any blood in stock, but Andrew could run to the butchers for some supplies if you need.'

'That would be great. Been stuck in a cargo hold for the last two days.'

'Does…' Giles motioned to the female demon.

'Illyria.' Angel supplied.

'…Illyria need anything?' Giles asked. The vampire looked at her and then shrugged.

'I do not require anything.' She stated, still looking around without moving.

'Great. Andrew?' The blonde nerd looked at Giles and then nodded, rushing to the door with his coat.

'Back in a flash.' He said cheerily and then disappeared out of the door, closing it behind him. The two girls Giles had sent for towels reappeared and handed them to Angel and Illyria caution in their movements. Angel took the towel and began to dry himself off briskly. Illyria simply stared at the fabric in her hands and studied it. Giles watched her for a moment before turning to the slayers gathered on the stairs.

'Girls, I think you should return to your rooms. I will call you for a meeting in the morning after training to hear anything you need to know.' Silence and obedience greeted his orders and the girls moved away quickly before Giles returned to Angel and the blue female. 'She doesn't seem sure of that towel.' He said quietly to the vampire. Angel grinned, but it was a grim expression.

'Wait till she puts it in her mouth.'

Giles looked a little perturbed, before motioning to the study where he had been before. 'Would you like to come through? Willow should be down in a second. She was meditating.'

'Is Buffy here?' Angel asked as he followed Giles through to the study, leaving Illyria behind. She was still pulling at the towel, completely unsure of it.

'She is out on patrol. She should be back soon.'

'Great. I think she needs to hear some of this. I thought she was still in Rome.'

'She returned after her mission with the Immortal was complete.' Giles informed him, offering the vampire a whiskey as he sat down.

'Not on an empty stomach.' Angel quipped, raising his hands. 'Besides I need a clear head to deal with all this. What do you mean by mission?'

'We had some information on his dealings, which turned out to be less than savoury.' Giles sighed and sat down, a glass of whiskey firmly in one hand. 'Buffy went undercover to suss him out and discovered more of his activities. She decided the best course of action was to incapacitate his abilities. Needless to say she succeeded.'

'Did she kill him? I mean, she seemed…' Angel stopped in his tracks, well aware of Giles' disdain for his "stalking" act. 'I heard…I mean to say…'Giles interrupted him.

'I know of your trip to Italy. I was informed of it by Buffy herself. Andrew told her of your presence. She did not, however, know of Spike's re-emergence to the land of the unliving, but he did tell me. I decided it was best for Buffy to remain unaware of this fact.' He cleared his throat. 'Am I to assume Spike did not continue to work with you at Wolfram and Hart?'

'No, he stuck around.' Angel said, shifting uncomfortably. 'He was fighting with us against them. Then he disappeared.'

'Disappeared?' Giles frowned. 'I think I'm going to need a few more details on this fight, as you put it.'

Willow chose that moment to appear in the doorway. 'Giles? Karin said you wanted to…Angel?' The vampire turned and Willow rushed forward. 'Oh, my god.' She exclaimed upon seeing his disarray. 'What happened? And who's that in the hallway?'

'Willow…Angel was just about to tell me what exactly has led to his…unexpected appearance here. And I'm sure he'll explain exactly who that is.' He leaned over slightly to see what Illyria was doing. The towel was gone and she was staring in their direction. Angel followed his gaze and shrugged.

'She must have eaten it.'

'Eaten what?' Willow asked. Angel looked up at her once more, a sad expression on his face.

'You'd better sit down.'

****

Silence consumed the study. Giles had finished his whiskey and a few more. Willow had gone a paler shade than normal, and was sitting with her hands firmly clasped together in her lap.

'This does explain a lot that has happened in the past few days.' Giles said. 'Demons are emerging everywhere, species we have never seen before. There have been news reports. I knew something had happened in L.A, but I wasn't aware of the full extent of it.'

'I can't believe that's Fred.' Willow said, for the twentieth time. 'She was so…and Wesley? And Gunn?'

'I know, it's a lot to take in. But we can't stop yet. Not to mourn or anything. Something bad is happening and it's up to us.'

'Again.' Willow said.

'And Spike…I feel we must tell Buffy. She has to know now. If what happened to him has any relevance to our situation at all, we must inform everyone.' Giles looked down at his empty glass, wondering briefly whether to refill it or not. Angel watched him carefully, and Giles could feel the elder mans gaze on him heavily. He looked up, locking his eyes with the vampires and he knew exactly what had to be done. 'We need to formulate a plan of action. Buffy should be home any second, and I think it would be best if she heard this from me.' He saw instantly Angel's argument and raised a hand. 'Of course you will be there. I still don't understand a lot of what has happened and she may have questions.' He paused. 'She will have questions. After all, this is Buffy.'

'Do you want me to tell the girls?' Willow asked. Giles shook his head in response.

'No, I've already told them that they will hear all they need to in the morning. It's best they be left to a good nights sleep. I would actually request that you begin researching, Willow, on a way to possibly locate Spike and return him to this plane of existence.'

'What if he's…?' Willow didn't finish her sentence, her gaze flittering between the Watcher and the vampire. Angel shook his head in denial.

'He's not dead. I'd know it if he was.'

'Who's not dead?' A voice came from the hallway. All three turned to find Buffy in the doorway, her arms crossed over her chest and a stern look on her face. The expression melted as she saw Angel and was replaced by confusion. 'Angel? What are you…?' She stopped and looked at Giles. 'What's going on?'

'Buffy…erm, Angel is here because of…because…' He sighed and took off his glasses, placing them on the desk. 'Perhaps you'd better sit down.'

Buffy wandered into the room, almost in a daze and sat in the only unoccupied chair. She looked at all three of them expectantly, waiting for an explanation.

'Willow, would you kindly go and see to that research?' Willow nodded at Giles request and stood, giving Buffy a look that clearly said they would talk later. Angel stood up and caught Willow's arm, speaking quietly to her. The witch nodded at whatever he had said and hurried out of the room. Angel returned to his seat and looked at Giles. The watcher cleared his throat and looked at the Slayer, concern filling his expression. 'Buffy, some of what we have to tell you may come as a shock, but you have to understand it was kept from you for good reason. Unfortunately the situation requires for you to know everything now, seeing as we may be facing the biggest fight of our lives.'

'I've heard that one before.' She looked at him questioningly. 'But what have you kept from me?'

'Earlier on this week, Angel and his comrades in L.A fought against the corporeal manifestation of the Senior Partners. Several of them died. It is only Angel and one other that made it here.'

'Who?' Buffy interrupted.

'Illyria.' Angel said. 'She used to be Fred, until something killed her. Now she's a demon, but she's safe enough. She doesn't understand much.'

'Okay…' Buffy replied, looking to Giles for confirmation. Her watcher sighed again and Buffy wondered how much she would be hearing that sound from now on.

'In any case, Illyria will be investigated at a later date. She is not important to this chain of events.' He leant forward. 'Buffy, two weeks after Sunnydale, Spike was brought back.'

She went still. Her entire body was flooded with numbness and she struggled to regain her powers of speech. She looked to Angel, her face an expressionless mask. He hung his head, twiddling his thumbs. She then looked firmly at Giles, her jaw set in determination. 'What happened?'

'He was incorporeal. Unable to touch anything, affect anything. Then, he regained his corporeal body. We only know that a former employee of Wolfram and Hart did it, we have no clue how.' He looked to Angel, who was still squirming in his seat uncomfortably. 'Angel says he stayed with them and fought beside them. Only in the final battle…'

'Is he dead?' Buffy asked, cursing the choked voice that came out. She was singed by a sense of betrayal, not only on Spike's part for not telling her he was alive, but because of her former lover's and her Watcher's part in the cover-up. 'Just tell me if he is, please…I already went through that once.'

'Buffy, if he was dead, we wouldn't cause you any more heartache by telling you now that he was alive and didn't tell you.' Giles paused once more, looking at her sincerely. 'From what Angel has told me, Spike disappeared during the final stand against the senior partners. He was sucked through a portal of sorts.'

'That's what you were saying before. When Angel said he wasn't dead. How do you know he isn't?' She looked to Angel for the answers this time and Giles sat back, leaving the vampire to explain himself.

'Vampires have a connection, Buffy, especially if they are of the same line. Drusilla killed him, sure enough, but it was my blood he took. There's a blood connection and I would know if he died.'

'You didn't know he died after Sunnydale.' Buffy stated, staring at her former intently. Angel shook his head.

'He died, yeah, but his essence was still technically in existence, just locked in that amulet. Wesley told me I wouldn't have sensed it. I would know if he died a true death.' Angel looked at Giles, trying to gain some help from the Watcher. But Giles seemed to content to let him answer the questions alone.

Buffy glanced at the floor and then back to Angel. 'Why didn't he tell me he was alive?'

Angel shifted for a second and then looked directly at her. 'He had his own reasons. All he ever told me was that he wanted you to have a normal life. That showing up on your doorstep wasn't fair to you.'

'Was he with you when you turned up in Rome? Did he care enough?' Buffy asked quickly. Her tone was harsh and she regretted it immediately.

'I'm going to go see where Andrew has gotten to.' Giles said, excusing himself from the room. Buffy waited for him to leave, before pressing with her inquiries.

'Well?'

Angel stood up, wincing as he caught the burn on his torso. 'He never stopped loving you, Buffy. I know that for a fact. But he didn't want to hurt you anymore. And yes, he was in Rome.'

Buffy looked away, guilt flushing over her. She knew what it must have felt like to see her with the Immortal. He'd never known it was just a mission. Then something struck her. 'That means Andrew knew.' She frowned. 'Oh, I'm so gonna…'

'Andrew was only doing what he was told. Giles didn't want you to know because he didn't want to cause more upset.'

'Upset?' Buffy stood up. 'Upset? I told Spike I loved him before he burned up in that hell hole. And he didn't believe me. Because of everything we did to each other he didn't believe I could ever love him back. That I was only saying it to make him feel better. When I loved him more than anything. I truly did. And I spent all those months mourning for him and torturing myself over it. Blaming myself for his death.' Tears glistened in her eyes. 'All that time he was alive.' She paused. 'Dawn cried for weeks, because she never told him she had forgiven him. She tore herself up over it. And he didn't want to cause any more upset?' She narrowed her eyes at Angel. 'Did you have anything to do with this?'

Angel shook his head. 'Buffy, Spike's his own vampire. He does what he wants.'

'Exactly, so he would have come storming back into my life and made himself known like he always does. Spike doesn't sit back and leave things alone.'

'Well, this time he did.'

'I don't believe you. Something kept him from coming to me.'

'The first few months, yeah it did. He was a ghost, Buffy. Couldn't touch anything.'

'But what about after that?' She asked and Angel sighed.

'He told us he was leaving. Told us he was going for you. But then he didn't.' He stopped, remembering what he had said to the other vampire and guilt surged through him. 'I asked him to stay. But not because I wanted him to stay away from you. I asked him to stay because…well, I'm not entirely sure. But he did stay. And he fought hard. I know that he was fighting for you, even if he couldn't be with you. He did love you, Buffy. He never stopped.'

Buffy sank back down into her seat, tears making her shoulders shake. Angel crouched beside her and rubbed her back gently. 'I never told him. Not until it was too late. And he didn't believe me.'

'You'll tell him. Willow will find a way to get him back and you can tell him.' Buffy looked at him, sniffing and trying to hold back the tears.

'I hope so.' Angel smiled and took her hand, squeezing it reassuringly, the thought that he was reassuring her about Spike of all people not even registering. All he knew was that the girl he had once loved more than anything was hurting and she needed to be told everything would be alright.

'I know so. This is Spike, remember? Wherever he is, he's probably putting up a hell of fight.'

****

The pain was excruciating. But he couldn't have told you that if he tried. He didn't know how long he'd been here but knew it was a while. It felt like years, and the sight of his blood had since become common place. Red washed into the blackness of his prison, the screams from around him echoed painfully in his beaten head. He was unrecognisable; even he had almost forgotten who he was. His tormentors had invaded his senses in everyway, pulled things he treasured from his mind, memories, feelings; everything was being taken from him. He didn't remember why he was still fighting back, but it was the only thing he could hold onto. Whoever he had been, whoever he was, he was not going to let them beat him.

He would fight.

For no reason, he would fight.

****

The sound of feet woke Angel from his restless sleep, and he squinted at the bright light filtering into the room. The curtains were shut, preventing any actual harm from coming to him, but his eyes and head still felt like he'd been drinking whiskey for a week straight. He was tired still, but knew that he wouldn't sleep again. He had to check on Illyria, and see what progress Giles had made on researching the new problem they were facing. He knew that Buffy probably hadn't slept, mainly due to the truths she had discovered last night, but she was also anxious for the arrival of her little sister and Xander, who was collecting her from the airport. Angel wasn't looking forward to the confrontation he would inevitably have with the carpenter, and wasn't much for the reaction Xander would display when he discovered that Spike had returned to the land of the living and they were currently mounting a rescue mission.

Doors were banging all over the house and Angel reluctantly removed himself from the bed and dressed in the clean, and thoroughly intact, clothes that Giles had provided for him the night before. He didn't bother with showering; the cuts and bruises he still maintained from the fight were still tender, and he knew hot water, or cold, was only going to sting and put him in a bad mood.

It didn't take long for him to navigate himself to the door and downstairs. It was a fairly large house, with four floors. He hadn't gotten much of a look from outside in the rain, but from the interior, he guessed that it would look like something out of a Jane Austen novel. Large, typically English. One could only wonder how Giles managed to afford such a large place as this. But he wasn't going to ask. He might have been the Scourge of Europe at one point, but he still had some manners.

Buffy was alone in the kitchen when he came downstairs, and she smiled at him wearily as he entered and headed for the fridge. Andrew had done a good job on collecting supplies from the butchers; he'd even made an extra trip to a local supermarket, ASDA or something. Angel hadn't heard of the chain, but he assumed they were most likely part of Wal-Mart. Everyone knew they were taking over the world.

'How'd you sleep?' Buffy asked, picking at her toast. Angel sat opposite her, a blood packet in his hand. He stared at it and shrugged in response to her question. Buffy pointed at a cupboard behind him and grinned. 'Mugs are in there. And the microwave is over there.' She motioned to a microwave that was nestled near a huge sink. It looked like it was as old as the house itself. 'I can do it for you, if you want.'

Angel shook his head, but Buffy stood up and took the packet from him anyway. She busied herself preparing his breakfast as he looked at the headline on a paper, discarded on the side. It was a copy of the Daily Mail, and the headline was definitely an attention grabbing one. "Riots continue over capital, England in turmoil." He pulled the paper towards him, frowning. Buffy noticed what he was doing and cleared her throat.

'There's been rioting the past three days, all over the world. Sixteen people got killed in broad daylight in the street in London. It's happening everywhere, small villages, and towns. A plane got emergency landed in France yesterday because some guy actually went crazy and exploded.'

'Exploded?'

'Tell me that ain't supernatural.' She quipped and put the mug down in front of him, full of warm blood. He looked at it for a second, before quashing all manner of respectable behaviour and downing it in one large gulp. Buffy watched him, not in the least bit perturbed. 'Hungry?'

'I was; thanks. Been a rough couple of days.'

'Of course they're blaming the guy on the plane for being a terrorist or something. Thing was, he didn't damage the plane, just covered it in blood and guts. And they didn't find any explosives. So if he was a terrorist, he needed to read up a bit more.' Angel chuckled and pushed the paper away. He looked towards the doorway.

'When are Dawn and Xander getting here?' Buffy shrugged.

'Any time really. Xander said he'd picked her up okay, but it depends on whether Dawn makes him go shopping or not. She's obsessed with Oxford Street.'

'Surely she knows how bad the situation is?'

Buffy looked guilty for a second. 'We haven't told her anything yet. She was flying over anyway, because they've all just split up from school for the summer in Italy. I wanted to wait and tell her to her face.' She sighed. 'I had to tell Faith over the phone though. She's making arrangements to travel over with Robin and the slayers they've got in Cleveland.'

'That's gonna cost a bundle.'

'Private jets.'

Angel looked at her in surprise. 'Private jets? What did you do, win the lottery?'

Buffy laughed. 'No. Giles does it all. Turns out, being a Watcher pays well. And since the old council got destroyed, and he's the most senior member of the watchers that are left, he got pretty much everything he needed to start up a new operation. We've still got a few hiccups but other than that, we're good to go.' She sighed again. 'Just depends whether all our resources are gonna be enough against this ultimate evil.'

How's the research going by the way?'

Willow walked in, an empty cup in one hand and a pile of papers in the other. 'The research goes well, but I'm all outta coffee.' She sat at the counter as Buffy set about making some coffee. 'I found a spell that could possibly locate Spike, but it's a really, really long shot. And we need something personal of his which is gonna be difficult. It says blood is the best thing, but I don't think we thought to keep any of that on hand.'

'But we might be able to tweak it right?' Buffy asked, looking at the witch hopefully. Willow grimaced.

'It'll be difficult, Buffy, but we'll keep on trying.'

'What about my blood?' Angel asked. 'It not his, but its still the same line.'

Willow shook her head. 'It's not close enough. I need something that was definitely his.' Silence fell over the kitchen. Buffy handed Willow a fresh mug of coffee and the witch smiled. 'Don't worry Buffy, we'll find something. We'll get him back…again.' Buffy nodded and smiled a little unhappily.

The front door suddenly opened and Xander's voice filtered through to the kitchen. 'Honey, we're home.'

'Buffy?' Dawn called, and then she appeared in the doorway. Buffy moved quickly to her and the sisters embraced. Angel shifted uncomfortably as Xander entered and the new arrivals gazes fell on him curiously. 'Why's Angel here?' Dawn asked, looking at her sister with concern.

Buffy was about to answer when Giles chose that moment to appear through the door at the back of the kitchen, a book in hand. 'Ah, Dawn, Xander, you're here. Willow if you would get the girls together, we'll all convene in the dining room and get everyone up to speed.'

Willow rushed off quickly as Buffy looked at Dawn and Xander apologetically. 'Sorry, guys. I promise this will all be explained.'

'What's wrong?' Xander asked. He looked at Angel. 'And why's he here?'

'Guys, just come into the dining room, we'll explain everything. It's a long story and it's gonna be easier if we tell everyone at once.' She waited for a response. Dawn shrugged.

'Okay, but for the record, I don't like this.' She shuddered and looked at Xander. 'I told you something was wrong.'

She followed her sister through the hallway into the dining room where Giles had disappeared, and Xander followed them, with Angel trudging behind. The other slayers were slowly convening inside the large room, which was more like a ballroom than a dining room, and Angel couldn't help but feel a little uncomfortable. He only hoped that the explanation would be over soon and the questions that would inevitably follow would be over even sooner.

Whatever came of this, it wouldn't be easy for anyone.

****

Silence was the only thing echoing through the house. The meeting had taken three hours by the time all questions were answered and jobs delegated. Then Giles had dismissed them all. Willow and a few of the younger, more enthusiastic, slayers had headed into the library to continue researching both the upcoming apocalypse and the problem of finding Spike. Giles had not been specific on which one was more important, but Buffy had made it clear to Willow that she had to put the majority of her energies into finding the blonde vampire. Angel, for some reason, agreed with her. He couldn't help but feel the same way Buffy did; Spike was important to this fight, otherwise he wouldn't have disappeared. Someone had done something to him; nothing ever happened without due reason in this world.

Dawn had been worse affected by Spike's disappearance than even Buffy had. The slayer herself had been upset, but had remained calm and collected throughout the whole time since she had found out. Which showed Angel just how much she had grown up since he had left Sunnydale for good. Xander had simply stood by and comforted the younger Summers, keeping his mouth clear of making any wise cracks about the vampire.

After the meeting, Angel had trudged back to the kitchen, to find the sun had set outside. He'd decided to go and find Buffy, see if she fancied a patrol around the town. Only he'd discovered she had departed straight after the meeting and had already headed out for patrol alone. So he grabbed his coat, made a brief check on Illyria, who was standing in the corner of the library and had been doing so for several hours, and then left the house to find Buffy.

He picked up her trail as he left the grounds of the house, which were quite expansive. She had headed north from the estate, probably further into town to find a graveyard. He followed her path, moving as silently as the night itself, all his senses focused on her and her destination. It didn't take long to pick up the sound of a fight ahead of him, in the nearest graveyard. He picked up his pace and climbed up the graveyard wall, crouching on top of the closest mausoleum and scanning the cemetery for the blonde slayer. She was fighting about three hundred yards away from him, against a fledgling it shouldn't have taken her two seconds to dust. The vampire was fighting weakly, barely protecting himself against the vicious blows Buffy was raining down on him. She didn't stop for a few minutes, taking all of her aggression out on the demon before finally bringing her stake down. The vampire exploded into dust and died.

'You can come out now.' Buffy said, and it became clear that she was talking to Angel. He stood up and jumped down from the mausoleum, smiling slightly. She turned to him and folded her arms. 'I knew you'd follow me.' She walked towards him, a smile on her face. 'I'm starting to think stalking me is a hobby of yours that will never go away.'

'I don't stalk you.' Angel defended himself, and then smiled again. 'I just…check up on you from time to time.'

'Right.' Buffy said, walking past him and towards the exit of the graveyard. 'You're just looking out for me.'

'Exactly.' He nodded and began to follow her once more. She rolled her eyes and let her arms fall to her sides, the stake clutched securely in her right hand.

'So, what's everyone else doing?' Buffy asked, as he joined her at her side.

'What Giles told them to do. I wasn't really paying attention.' He said, his eyes scanning the cemetery for any vampires.

Silence was the only thing that greeted them as they left the cemetery and continued down the street. Buffy held her arms closely to herself, her eyes focused on the floor. Whilst to the innocent onlooker, she would have seemed like she was lost in her thoughts, the vampire beside her knew that whilst her eyes were downcast, the rest of her senses were alert for the presence of anything that needed killing. He didn't speak for a few minutes, unsure of what to say. He didn't need to think of anything; however, as the slayer started a conversation.

'Do you think we'll find him?'

Angel sighed and looked up at the sky briefly, seeing the clouds had begun to separate, allowing the light of the moon to shine through. Stars winked at him as he looked back down and smiled reassuringly at the petite blonde. 'I'm sure we'll find him. Wherever he is, Spike will be fine. He's not one to give up easily.'

'I know.' She sighed. 'I wish he'd come back. I really miss him sometimes.'

'You do?' Angel asked, wishing his tone didn't sound as incredulous. Buffy smiled.

'I really do. Sometimes, when someone says something and you can't think of a comeback, Spike comes in really handy.'

Angel chuckled. 'He was good at that. Sarcastic to the end.'

'He fought hard to change. It's not fair he never got a chance.' Buffy sighed and dropped her arms. 'I just wish he'd believe in himself. Like I believed in him.'

The brunette vampire had nothing to say. He had never liked the younger vampire, although he cared what happened to him, since he got the soul anyway. Angelus had never had any care for the blonde, had never given more than a miniscule thought to him. He was glad of the distraction for Drusilla, but had never taken more than a passing thought for him other than that. He knew Spike looked up to him, wanted to beat him; and for that part, Angel was glad he had never succeeded. The fact that he had had a hand in creating a vicious creature like the one Spike used to be upset him deeply but in truth, the other vampire had never been quite as cruel as Angelus had been. He had never crossed the line like Angelus had done. He had done things that were bad, yes, and truly evil at points, but he had never done things that had made other vampires baulk, like Angelus had.

Angel only hoped now, that wherever Spike was, they got to him quickly, before the man Spike had fought to become was lost forever.

For Buffy's sake.

****

'We have a very small problem.' Giles said, his eyes moving over the crowd before him. 'And by small, I mean apocalyptic.' The slayers all tensed at once and he signalled to Willow, who was standing by the television. She switched it on and the screen flickered to life. The images that appeared before the room made the slayers gasp. The only ones that remained unmoved were the original members of the Scooby Gang and the vampire. It was, unfortunately, nothing they hadn't seen before.

A woman reporter, with microphone in hand, stood by a burning building in Milan, speaking in Italian tainted English. Behind her, fighting was happening and bodies lay in the street. "We come to you live from Milan, a once beautiful city, marred now by fighting. The origins of this war are unknown, but the main culprits are disfigured creatures, who are targeting anyone and everyone, killing without judgement, and destroying the city piece by piece."

Giles nodded at Willow and she turned the television off. He turned back to the gathering of slayers and frowned. 'There've been reports coming in from all over the place. Demons are breaking through everywhere. Pandemonium is consuming the earth.' He lent against the wall, sighing heavily. 'I'm afraid what we have always been waiting for has started to happen. This is Armageddon. Biblical proportions. The end of the world. The last few days have been tense, I know this hasn't been easy for anyone. But after researching it thoroughly, and with the coven's help, we now know exactly what we are facing.' He looked at Andrew, who held up a book and began to speak clearly.

"Darkness shall fall on all corners of the earth, as the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart consume humanity and burn the world. Armageddon will rise and the Phoenix shall hail the world of the victor. The Devil shall walk the Earth, unless the Slayer, the Key, and the evil of good unite where man was created and true heaven reigns."

Giles waited for a reaction but was only confronted with confused looks. He removed his glasses and cleaned them briefly. 'We have deciphered that there is no guaranteed winner. We have a chance at least.'

'Have you figured out the rest of it?' Xander asked.

'I think it's pretty self-explanatory.' Buffy said, stepping forward. 'I'm the Slayer, the original, right? Dawn is the Key.'

'I didn't think I worked anymore.' Dawn said, looking between her sister and the watcher with concern. 'I'm not sure I wanna work.'

'I wouldn't worry about it, sweetie. We'll make sure nothing bad happens to you.' Buffy said, moving over to her sister and rubbing her shoulder reassuringly. She then looked back to Giles. 'Any idea what the rest of it means? Evil of Good for example?'

Giles shook his head. 'We're not certain. But I've got a feeling it relates to Angel and Spike. Two vampires with souls? The very ones that have fought already against the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart.'

'That would explain why Spike disappeared.' Angel said. 'Maybe he is a part of this.'

'In which case we need to find him and pronto.' Buffy said; her expression serious as she focused on Willow. 'Have you made any gangway on that?'

Willow nodded. 'I have something that will help us find him and a spell to pull him back. But we need something that was his, and if any magic is protecting him from retrieval, it might be quite difficult.'

Buffy nodded, and took a breath. Dawn looked at Willow. 'But we don't have anything that belongs to him. At all.' She looked to her sister. 'Do we?'

The room fell silent as all eyes locked onto the original Slayer. She bit her lip and reached into her pocket, holding up a small silver object. 'This was his. I kinda…stole it from him.' She shrunk under Dawn's berating gaze and handed it to the witch. 'Just something to remember him by. I don't think he even noticed.'

'Oh, he noticed.' Angel said. 'But you might have just saved us all, Buffy.'

'I need to you with me to perform the ritual, Buffy. And you, Angel. It will probably take a while, because it involves scrying the dimensions for him. So I suggest a good night's sleep and some food before we start.' Willow said, looking between the slayer and vampire.

'We don't have time for that.' Buffy said. 'And I already ate. Angel, you good to go?' The vampire nodded in response. 'Then we're all set. You guys, start training, and Giles, research would be brilliant.' Giles looked at her with narrowed eyes.

'Are you sure about this Buffy? This is true war. It will be far beyond the First.'

She stopped and folded her arms. 'I know.' She looked around the room. 'And I know some of you haven't been doing this for long. But this is what we were born for, people. This is what we are. We are the only thing that stands between this world and hell. It's gonna be hard, and its gonna be bloody and a lot of us aren't going to survive. I faced death and it isn't pretty. But I want you to do one thing. Remember the thing that keeps you going everyday, remember your families, your friends, your pets. The one moment you live for. Even if it hasn't happened yet. And hold on to it.' She looked at Dawn. 'Because that one thing will keep you fighting, and may just keep you alive.'

Dawn smiled and the rest of the room nodded in agreement. Buffy didn't wait for any comment and turned to Willow.

'What are we waiting for?'

****

The room was silent and had been for hours. The only people in the actual circle were Buffy, Angel, Willow and a couple of the junior witches. Giles had refrained from joining them and had instead gathered the slayers for training and research. Only he could multi-task to that degree – something to do with being British. He had helped them set up and had locked the door from the outside. He knew that silence and no interruptions were essential to the spell working.

Buffy had had no qualms about assisting Willow in the retrieval of Spike and surprisingly, Angel had no such problems either. The younger slayers had questioned the need to go after a vampire but they had been silenced with a lecture from Giles. But Buffy couldn't blame them; she had once been just like them. Only now, she knew that there were grey areas and Spike was one of them – he always had been.

They had been sitting in the room for more than five hours, but she didn't feel tired. She was focusing all her energy on Spike, as Willow had instructed and she was the only one who was actually doing any work. Buffy wished she could open her eyes, but found it impossible to do so, and she didn't want to muck anything up by trying. She just wanted to know how it was going. Occasionally Willow would tense and the room would almost be electric but then it would stop and Willow would relax once more. She was running now on the power provided by the slayers and the vampire in the room. Buffy just hoped she found the other vampire before she ran out of battery.

The room sizzled again and Willow tensed, tightening her grip on Buffy's hand to a point where if Buffy had been a normal human, she would have broken bones. But Buffy wasn't a normal human, and neither was anyone else in the room. Buffy waited for the electricity to subside, and when it didn't, she allowed herself to get hopeful. Willow said something that she didn't quite catch, and she strained to hear anything else.

'Release…release…release…' The red head was chanting. Buffy frowned. 'You can speak now, I've found him.' The witch said, opening her eyes. Buffy followed suit. 'Just don't break the circle. I still need your power to get him out.'

'Where is he?'

'I can't say, all I know is I'm sensing something with a greater power than me is holding him. This is a manufactured dimension. It was made by someone. Someone who has an invested interest in this apocalypse.' Willow gritted her teeth. 'They're fighting back against me. I need to figure out a way to free him from their spell.'

'They're blocking you?' Angel asked.

'They're trying. But I'm sneaky.' Willow gripped tighter on Buffy's hand and the slayer let out a small yelp. 'I'm sorry. I need more…' The room exploded with bright light and the circle was broken as each member was thrown backwards. The light didn't dim for a few seconds and Buffy struggled to sit up and put her hand over her eyes to try and see. It didn't work. She clambered to her feet as the light disappeared and she looked around. Willow was sitting on the floor with one of the slayer's beside her, handing her a tissue for the bloody nose she had developed. The other young slayer had ended up by the door and was slowly being helped to her feet by Angel.

Then her eyes fell on the figure at the centre of the room, in the middle of the circle that had been obliterated. He was barely clothed; whatever he had been wearing was reduced to rags, and the scars that covered his body made her feel sick to her stomach. One of his eyes was sealed shut and bloody, and the other was shut, due his current state of unconsciousness. Blood and wounds covered him from head to toe; it seemed not an inch of him had been left untouched. Even his blonde locks were stained with his own blood.

She stepped forward and reached out to him, when he suddenly jolted away and snarled at her, vamping out, even though it wasn't too intimidating with the swollen eye. He bared his teeth, and moved to a crouching position. His eyes darted around like a wild animals, and he snarled as soon as Buffy moved.

'Spike…' she whispered. 'Spike…it's me.'

'He won't remember Buffy.' Willow said, limping forward with the help of the younger slayer. As she came closer to Spike, he retreated and went silent, and she frowned at him. Buffy looked between the witch and the vampire and frowned herself.

'Why's he backing away from you?'

'He can sense her power.' Angel said quietly, alerting the younger vampire to his presence. Spike looked at him warily and then retreated to the first corner he could find. 'He's forgotten who he is. Whatever they did to him, they've reduced him to just an animal.'

'How's he going to help us like this?' One of the slayers' asked.

Buffy shot her a sharp look and she quietened. The elder slayer looked at the vampire and a determined look set in on her face. 'We're gonna have to help him get better.'

'That could end up being impossible.'

'Finding him was impossible. But we did it. And you got him out. So this should be a doddle.' Buffy looked at Angel and then stepped forward towards Spike. The snarling started again and she stopped, looking confused.

'He can tell you're a slayer. He'll be terrified of you. He's made to be your prey.' Angel said, sighing. He stepped towards Spike, and held up his hands in defence. Spike watched him with cautious eyes, his gaze darting between him and Buffy. Angel vamped out and Spike growled. Angel growled back and the younger vampire went silent.

'Can you control him?' Willow asked.

Angel stood straight. 'He understands. I think. But we should keep him away from the girls anyway.'

Buffy nodded. 'Back to the basement then.'

****